Dealing With Homework
What's at Stake
Ideally, the goal of homework is to reinforce concepts and skills introduced in school, and experts generally agree that the amount of homework kids are assigned should take about 10 minutes per grade per night. If experts and teachers agree this is the right balance, why then are parents around the country reporting that elementary-school kids are routinely dragging home two or three hours of homework a night?
Because of the emphasis on standardized tests, for one thing, says Bob Chase of the NEA: "Teachers, schools and students are being judged by these tests; pressures are being applied from all angles to make sure kids do well. Does this translate into more homework? The answer is yes."
In addition, says Shirley Igo, president of the National PTA, teachers may assign as homework any material that won't be covered by standardized tests. To free up class time for test prep, subjects like art appreciation, health education and citizenship may end up as homework tasks. The alternative is to skip them altogether.
Sometimes parents themselves are supportive of heavier homework loads, says Chase. "Many parents just don't understand the appropriate use of homework," says Chase.
"They think if children are working harder they must be learning more." In fact, overburdened kids actually learn less.