Opinion: Homework Limits Are Getting Pushed


The amount of homework students should receive has been an ongoing debate among students, parents, and teachers. According to a University of San Diego Educational blog by Joseph Lathan, Ph.D., entitled “Is Homework Necessary? Education Inequity and Its Impact on Students,” the effectiveness of homework is up for debate.

“While some amount of homework may help students connect to their learning and enhance their in-class performance, too much homework can have damaging effects,” stated Dr. Lathan.

Lathan quotes the National Education Association’s (NEA) recommendation that students spend 10 minutes per grade level per night on homework. In middle school, that means 70 to 80 minutes of homework a night.  

The FCPS website states that their official homework policy should not exceed 25 minutes of homework per class block.  With seven blocks, that could add up to 175 minutes (25 min x 7 blocks). Depending on how students manage their homework, block scheduling could reduce that amount by half, but that’s still 87.5 minutes, which exceeds the recommendation.    

 The idea that students are getting too much homework is backed up by a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy, which found that students are getting much more than the NEA recommended amounts.

According to Dr. Lathan, the American Psychological Association (APA) found homework “disproportionally affects those from less affluent families.”  In other words, affluent families are better able to support their children academically.  

On the flip side, though, that support often comes with added pressure. According to Healthline.com, Stanford University conducted a study in 2013 that concluded students living in successful communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress than those who don’t.  

Students certainly seem to agree that they are feeling the pressure. 

“Homework is a waste of time, and we should just learn everything in class,” said 7th grader Clara H. “When I have too much homework, I’m not able to do all the fun things after school I would have wanted to do.”

Spanish teacher Senor Watson explains why that is difficult.  “Homework is not supposed to be done in class- that’s why it’s called HOMEWORK.”  

Languages, like math and music, are best learned through practice and repetition, and there simply isn’t enough time in a class block to do the necessary work and introduce new material each day.  FCPS defines the purpose of homework on its website.

“Homework should serve a positive purpose for learning and support the instructional program. Homework should be a vehicle through which students practice, apply, and/or elaborate on content that they are currently learning. It may also be used as preparation for learning new content,” the FCPS website states.

English teacher Meghan Donohue pointed out that the usefulness of homework really depends on how the teacher approaches it.  

“I don’t think it’s useful when it’s just a lot of busy work, and it just seems like filler,” said Donohue. “I do think it’s useful when it’s things like making sure they’re getting reading done for the next class. I want to make sure it’s meaningful assignments and also that students know I’m looking at it, it’s not just filling up time, because that’s annoying.” 

Donohue tries to assign at most 25 minutes a night, and with the longer blocks, she often gives students class time to finish. 

According to Healthline, a study shows that more than 70% of students are often stressed over homework, and 56% say that homework is a primary stress factor in their lives.  In addition, many students have sports or music events after school, leaving them with little time to rest and relax. 

No matter what the homework limit is, at the end of the day, students should always come first. Most teachers, parents, and administrators forget that after sitting in a classroom learning all day, students deserve breaks too.