6 Hot Button Issues in Education Today: Homework
By Judy Molland

Are students drowning in ever-increasing amounts of homework? Contrary to what many observers – and parents – have suspected, the amount of time spent on homework hasn’t increased much for kids in the upper-elementary and middle grades. But it has jumped significantly for 6- to 8-year-olds, according to a study released last fall by the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institute, a Washington think tank. While finding no significant increase in homework time for the upper grades, the researchers attributed the jump in the lower grades to a stronger emphasis on learning to read.

Just what is the right amount of homework? The National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association recommend the 10-minute rule: students should do 10 minutes of homework per night, per grade. Thus, a first-grader gets a total of 10 minutes; a second-grader, 20 minutes; a third-grader, 30 minutes, and so on.

Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and director of the Duke University Program in Education in North Carolina, has reviewed more than 100 studies on the effectiveness of homework. The grade-by-grade increase in homework might get adjusted based on the type of homework, he says, “but the 10-minute rule gives a basic anchor point.”

With the advent of homework in kindergarten, however, Marilou Hyson, associate executive director for professional development at the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), adds a cautionary note: “The way to get ready to do hours of homework in ninth grade,” she says, “is not to do hours of homework in kindergarten.”

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