New Study on Homework Burdens

If your child complains about having too much homework, you might want to consider the findings of a new study before you determine whether or not the complaint is valid. The study compared homework loads from the 1980s on up to the present.

In the George household, the time spent on homework varies. Ninth-grader Sam about like an hour or an hour and a half, and second-grader Isabel has about 20 minutes of homework. Those times are right in line with the norm, according to a new report released by the Brookings Institution.

Not only has homework remained fairly stable in terms of the load over the last 20 years, but the homework burden isn't terribly heavy. Researchers point to a recent University of Michigan study that found in 1997, children ages three to 12 spent an average of just over 19 minutes a night on homework, up three minutes from 1981. They also looked at a UCLA survey on high school seniors' homework loads, and found similar results:

"About two-thirds of high school students have an hour or less," said Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institute.

Some schools, like those the George children attend in Arlington, Virginia, set homework limits. And although it hasn't been a problem lately, their mother has intervened in the past. "I have on a couple of occasions just written and said, 'This is way too much,'" she said.

Researchers say a child's homework load should be determined on a case-by-case basis, not mandated by the school district. And they say teachers should try to standardize the content of schoolwork, not the time spent to complete it. Researchers also say they don't deny some children might face unreasonable homework burdens, but they claim the data shows. those children are in the minority.

Reported by: Sonny Dixon,