NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Homework: Making the Grade

September 2, 2003

As the school year gears up, parents and educators continue to debate just how much homework kids can handle. Complaints are coming mainly from middle- and upper-middle-class parents whose children are squeezing in homework after soccer practice, piano lessons and other activities, says Harris Cooper, author of "The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Students."

Their children are more overscheduled, he says. They have very high academic standards; they want their kids to be challenged, but they also want some family time at night.

  • A 1999 study by the U.S. Department of Education indicated that about 75 percent of America's 9-year-olds had daily homework, up from 66 percent in 1984.
  • According to a 1997 study by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, children spent 33.5 hours per week on schoolwork, up about 29 percent from 26.15 hours in 1981.
  • The survey suggests that although today's kids spend more time studying, they spend less time playing outside and pursuing hobbies, compared with previous generations.

Cooper says the perception that families are spending all night on homework may be overblown. He notes that in a 2001 national survey by Public Agenda, about 65 percent of parents polled said their children's homework levels were about right, 25 percent said their child had too little homework and only 10 percent described the homework burden as too much.

So what is the right amount of homework? The National Education Association and the National PTA recommend 10 minutes of homework per grade level each night.

Source: Kathryn Hopper, "The homework question: Do kids get too much or not enough? Parents and educators continue looking for answers to this quiz," Fort Worth Star Telegram, August 26, 2003.


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