Do Kids Need Homework?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

All this week, we've been talking about how students are learning both in and out of the classroom. Our conversations have looked at cell phones as educational tools and at whether college students are studying less now than they did 40 years ago.

Today, we take a closer look at the study habits of primary and middle school students. In the past several years, a growing number of parents, teachers, and researchers have argued that kids are being assigned too much homework. After eight hours in school, they wonder if studying for hours at home afterward is really necessary.

Diane Lowrie is one of those parents. When her son was in second grade, she felt he was receiving too much homework and relocated him to another school. Heโ€™s now in fifth grade, and doing a lot less homework than he used to.

Jessica Lahey is also a parent, as well as a middle school Latin and English teacher. But unlike Diane, she thinks the backlash against homework is misinformed.


Jessica Lahey and Diane Lowrie

Produced by:

Arwa Gunja and Kristen Meinzer

Comments [16]



May. 16 2014 10:10 AM
ren from s y

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May. 16 2014 10:09 AM
luke shelby from ohio

my phone number is 513-435-5538

May. 16 2014 09:57 AM
tiffay from nyc

feel kids should not have homework there in skhool 4 8 howers dont u think
that is to much and still have homework

Apr. 09 2013 06:32 PM
Nerd from Your ass hole

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Dec. 10 2012 10:47 AM

One comment person writes: "burden the students to learn on their own........" This is NOT a burden! This is exactly what the teacher's role should be. The model of the teacher depositing knowledge in the student's brain is clearly outdated and research shows that students need to learn in a way that makes sense to them. Classroom practice is still very valuable and I agree with that comment. But, practice at home is also very valuable. I have never heard of anybody in favor of eliminating football practice and just showing up on Friday to play the game. Or, canceling piano practice and just showing up for the concert. Students need practice in all the areas of education.

Aug. 01 2012 06:05 PM
Beverly Rorem from OKLAHOMA CITY OK


May. 24 2012 11:05 AM
Carl A. from Grosse Pointe, MI

As the parent of a recent high school grad and a 5th grader, I agree that much of what I see as homework is really busy work. Thankfully, I have seen a decline in the amount of homework that is assigned to my younger child. The bigger question is whether the whole K-12 model of education in America is outdated. It has changed little in the last 50 years. Yet, in the 21st century, we are facing an entirely new educational landscape, as well as a new workplace that is requiring new kinds of skills. We see that the rankings of our current generation of young people continue to slip in areas such as math and science when compared to the rest of the world. Our future strength as a nation is directly related to the education of our students. So, how do we address this decline? I personally believe that a new model of education, similar to that proposed by the online learning site the Kahn Academy, may be beneficial. It utilizes the "flip the classroom" model, where students watch online videos at home to learn concepts, and they then come to school and perform tasks and complete assignments to test their understanding and to apply what they have learned at home. It appears to do a better job of helping students master subjects, and teachers seem to love it because it gives them far more one-on-one time with students.

May. 24 2012 09:43 AM
Sainted_Mother from Normally Brooklyn, today, Pgh

I don't understand how ... I worked as a tutor from the time I was 11 until 19, had an afterschool/weekend job in HS, graduated from HS with 5 years of math, science, english/social studies, with an average in the 90s (and I was so sick most of my sophomore year they thot about keeping me back a year based on attendance, but really couldn't based on grades) and lots of awards (in 1974).

I stopped-out a year between HS and college, to work as a teacher's aide in a private school. Went 2 years to college (grew up in Pittsburgh, went to school in DE, am listening via the old WDUQ / am a sustaining member of WNYC), was a VISTA for 1 year, then did junior/senior college year in one year (all the while had many different on/off campus jobs to pay for school ... of course cost was only $6G/yr), graduated in '79 ... very sick of school and having to constantly shift my attention.

My daughter is smart and talented, has no jobs, music lessons her only outside activity, and she has trouble keeping an 85 average. Her coursework is not much harder that what I had in school.

I don't know if some schools are harder or some students lazier, but I am _SURE_ the education system is inefficient. The lecture model is wrong (studies _SHOW_ this) and individualizes goals and methods work best.

BUT WE DO NOT VALUE TEACHERS as professionals, not nearly enuf -- it takes A LOT OF TIME AND _proper_ effort to get facts into kids heads. We don't make it easy to learn. The whole ball of wax rarely inspires ... or rather, a ball of worms.

I don't know how to fix this ... I only know that given what we know about how people learn, effectively ... we OUGHT TO BE ABLE to abandon old models and design better systems. One system / one size does not fit all.

May. 24 2012 09:27 AM
Patricia from Bergen County, NJ

I have seen, in my own daughter's middle school, more homework than I had in high school. They have constant busy work and then added to these are enormous projects, one after another, on top of the busy work. Minimums are set, but maximums are NOT set and for higher level thinkers, the number of hours that end up being put in to achieve this "quality work" becomes overwhelming. We had a project a week from the end of January to the end of April. Many projects took my daughter 8-14 hours to accomplish. She had to do it all on the weekend as the busy work continued to be assigned and she had to devote weekdays to that. Family time, downtime, time to get fresh air and run around in the yard, time for her other extracurricular activities went out the window. In addition, to achieve an A, most projects are accompanied by a report, which MUST be typed, and while the kids get keyboarding at this age, they don't get enough of it to increase their speed enough to type an 8 page paper in a reasonable amount of time. There is an assumption, because we are in the suburbs, that all the kids have parental support and funds to complete these projects. It's not always the case and there is a question of fairness here. Not all kids have a quiet place to work, a computer, the money to invest in the 20 lbs of clay to do their project, parents who have the education and time to guide them. Public education is fundamentally about providing some sort of level playing field and more and more, parents are providing the resources and the public school education is not the equalizer it once was even WITHIN suburbia, never mind outside it.

May. 24 2012 09:05 AM
A Grad Student

Having taught at universities like NYU, the student interviewed at the beginning of the segment presented a good case for why I continue to be surprised at the poor quality of work that comes across my desk. While students may not be working as much in college, the quality of assignments would be much improved by a little more time working on it. It is shocking how few students can even find continents on a map even after presumably studying.
I care less about how many hours of homework there are in grade school, and much more about whether they are prepared and apt learners. It seems to me that U.S. schools are failing in this.

May. 24 2012 08:55 AM

peg has it right... no to homework.... extend the school day, and or the school year... when a plumber comes home from work, does he want to stick his head in a bathroom vanity?... when an auto mechanic come home from his repair shop, does he want to throw himself under his neighbor's clunker?...

May. 24 2012 08:45 AM

The old fashioned school schedule gave students the whole summer off so that they could go home and work on the farm. The old fashioned school day sent kids home to mom in the afternoon to get chores done or maybe a little play time before dinner. That's not the way we live anymore. Why are we so stuck in the past?

We fail to address that the school day and school year does not work for children or parents in today's world. I think extending the schedule so that children are in school while their parents are at work would take care of the 'no time for homework at home' problem.

May. 24 2012 08:11 AM
Jessie Henshaw from way uptown

I think people don't recognize that *the earth is moving*, in the sense of changing the subjects of life that need to be learned, and everyone is actually unprepared.

The obvious ways are that both the relationships we need to learn about AND the way they'll have changed before you face them in your own life are getting more and more complex. Our main way of changing the earth is economic growth, and that keeps having multiplying consequences that are mostly unexpected and ever more complex.

So, the way our culture over the past few decades has already responded to that is to show a preference for simple subjects, running exactly counter to the shape of the challenges. The problem is that complex subjects naturally become unmanageable to teach and learn,

We need more than using better technique for learning and teaching, and to teach students more about learning as they go in a changing world. we also need to show consideration for those struggling with it, and to give people a better awareness of how the world we now need to learn about is changing. What we need most is for people to be aware of it and have their own opinions!

May. 24 2012 07:48 AM
ohan karagozian from New Haven, CT.

Homework is necessary when classwork is insufficient. There are some professors/teachers who are not good at what they do and then burden the students to learn on their own by doing homework. When you are doing homework, and you stumble and need help who can you talk to? But if you are practicing in class, you can ask the instructor a question to resolve your problem. Classroom time has, over the years, been reduced and self-learning has been substituted in it's place.

May. 24 2012 07:02 AM
John Hritz from Ann Arbor, MI

The problem with homework for elementary school kids is that it has become a substitute for direct education. Due to class sizes and general disruption, parents are taking on more of the instruction duties for younger students. At the point where a grade schooler has 6-7 hours of homework a week on top of class time, you'd might as well home school them. Middle and high school kids need to transition toward the college model of 2-3 times the amount of study time as class time.

May. 23 2012 10:42 PM

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