Patt Morrison for June 20, 2011

Homework: how much is too much?

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Anthony Kelly/Flickr

A young girl does her homework.

It’s no secret that American culture is heavily competition-oriented; homework loads have been rising since the Soviets launched Sputnik and sparked an educational contest that mirrored the Cold War arms race between the two nations. In recent years, homework loads have continued to grow, as teachers pressured by the No Child Left Behind Act hoped more homework would improve their students’ test scores. It would seem that increased time spent on academics should yield better grades and higher test scores—but many parents, teachers and even principals are arguing that too much homework can worsen children's school performance and detract from their childhood experience. In a wave that is sweeping educational institutions across the country, many schools and school boards are electing to reduce the amount of homework assigned, introduce homework-free holidays and weekends, or abolish homework altogether. The motions have been met with approval by many, but opponents claim homework is vital to meeting educational standards that cannot be taught in the length of one school day. How useful is homework?


Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and neuroscience, Duke University

Cathy J. Vatterott, education professor and author of "Rethinking Homework," University of Missouri at St. Louis

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