As kids return to school, debate is heating up once again over how they should spend their time after they leave the classroom for the day.
The no-homework policy of a second-grade teacher in Texas went viral last week, earning praise from parents across the country who lament the heavy workload often assigned to young students. Brandy Young told parents she would not formally assign any homework this year, asking students instead to eat dinner with their families, play outside and go to bed early.
But the question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial, and plenty of parents take issue with no-homework policies, worried their kids are losing a potential academic advantage. Here’s what you need to know:
For decades, the homework standard has been a “10-minute rule,” which recommends a daily maximum of 10 minutes of homework per grade level. Second graders, for example, should do about 20 minutes of homework each night. High school seniors should complete about two hours of homework each night. The National PTA and the National Education Association both support that guideline.
But some schools have begun to give their youngest students a break. A Massachusetts elementary school has announced a no-homework pilot program for the coming school year, lengthening the school day by two hours to provide more in-class instruction. “We really want kids to go home at 4 o’clock, tired. We want their brain to be tired,” Kelly Elementary School Principal Jackie Glasheen said in an interview with a local TV station. “We want them to enjoy their families. We want them to go to soccer practice or football practice, and we want them to go to bed. And that’s it.”
A New York City public elementary school implemented a similar policy last year, eliminating traditional homework assignments in favor of family time. The change was quickly met with outrage from some parents, though it earned support from other education leaders.
New solutions and approaches to homework differ by community, and these local debates are complicated by the fact that even education experts disagree about what’s best for kids.
The most comprehensive research on homework to date comes from a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University psychology professor Harris Cooper, who found evidence of a positive correlation between homework and student achievement, meaning students who did homework performed better in school. The correlation was stronger for older students—in seventh through 12th grade—than for those in younger grades, for whom there was a weak relationship between homework and performance.
Cooper’s analysis focused on how homework impacts academic achievement—test scores, for example. His report noted that homework is also thought to improve study habits, attitudes toward school, self-discipline, inquisitiveness and independent problem solving skills. On the other hand, some studies he examined showed that homework can cause physical and emotional fatigue, fuel negative attitudes about learning and limit leisure time for children. At the end of his analysis, Cooper recommended further study of such potential effects of homework.
Despite the weak correlation between homework and performance for young children, Cooper argues that a small amount of homework is useful for all students. Second-graders should not be doing two hours of homework each night, he said, but they also shouldn’t be doing no homework.
Not all education experts agree entirely with Cooper’s assessment.
Cathy Vatterott, an education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, supports the “10-minute rule” as a maximum, but she thinks there is not sufficient proof that homework is helpful for students in elementary school.
“Correlation is not causation,” she said. “Does homework cause achievement, or do high achievers do more homework?”
Vatterott, the author of Rethinking Homework: Best Practices That Support Diverse Needs, thinks there should be more emphasis on improving the quality of homework tasks, and she supports efforts to eliminate homework for younger kids.
“I have no concerns about students not starting homework until fourth grade or fifth grade,” she said, noting that while the debate over homework will undoubtedly continue, she has noticed a trend toward limiting, if not eliminating, homework in elementary school.
The issue has been debated for decades. A TIME cover in 1999 read: “Too much homework! How it’s hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.” The accompanying story noted that the launch of Sputnik in 1957 led to a push for better math and science education in the U.S. The ensuing pressure to be competitive on a global scale, plus the increasingly demanding college admissions process, fueled the practice of assigning homework.
“The complaints are cyclical, and we’re in the part of the cycle now where the concern is for too much,” Cooper said. “You can go back to the 1970s, when you’ll find there were concerns that there was too little, when we were concerned about our global competitiveness.”
Cooper acknowledged that some students really are bringing home too much homework, and their parents are right to be concerned.
“A good way to think about homework is the way you think about medications or dietary supplements,” he said. “If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.”
Life as a graduate student isn’t always easy, but it’s worthwhile (even if it doesn’t always feel that way).
After researching what seemed like a million and one graduate student blogs, the following list was compiled with the common themes present in the daily lives of graduate students.
Read the below to get a laugh, relate and realize that others know what you’re going through.
1. Your meetings with professors are scheduled at the most inconvenient times imaginable. So what if my wife is in labor?
2. Lonely office hours – do students even utilize these anymore?
3.Your life can be summed up in one word: research.
4. The impossible balance between research, school and studying.
5. Trying to remember what you ate today…or was that yesterday?
6. The boredom between courses and qualifying exams…even though you should be studying.
7. As soon as you get a moment to relax, somebody says “thesis” and it’s over.
8. Neglecting to speak out loud for an entire day because your reading took over.
9. Your social life consists of people debating serious issues and philosophical concepts.
10. You consider caffeine to be your favorite food group. The only down side is the twitching and involuntary body movements you now experience regularly.
11. All of your household surfaces are mere extensions of your desk.
12. Carefully grading undergraduate work that never gets picked up by the student.
13. Working wherever, whenever. Your books and laptop are basically tethered to your body.
14. Weekends are no longer filled with fun and excitement. They now contain dread mixed with piles of text.
15. The panic that sets in when you scheduled a task that doesn’t involve school.
16. Looking forward to the week because you only have one 20-page paper to write.
17. Realizing you must choose between sleep, school and a social life. School wins.
18. Being so exhausted that you don’t even have the energy to try to sleep.
19.You actually get excited when you get books for a new semester.
20. Your excitement is short-lived because you realize they don’t fit on your IKEA bookshelf.
21. You start questioning if your life is “normal,” due to eleven-plus hour workdays with no breaks.
22. It’s increasingly difficult to continue a discussion after a person makes a comment you disagree with.
23. You avoid your dissertation advisor like a debt collector since you still haven’t finished the task at hand.
24. Your bucket list consists of making friends outside of grad school, in hopes to maintain some degree of normalcy.
25. Answering the same student questions via email repeatedly.
26. Simple pleasures in life, like purchasing a plant or dry-clean only shirt, become “too much of a commitment.”
27. Feeling as if you’re having a nervous breakdown, then wondering if you’re technically too young to have a nervous breakdown. Better Google it, just in case.
28. Spelling the simplest words suddenly becomes difficult.
It’s m-u-s-e-a-u-m, right?
29. You’re actually grateful when an illness coincides with your schedule.
Thank goodness it was the weekend and I didn’t have to miss class!
30. You either have a million things to do or nothing to do – never a healthy medium.
31. You’ve got a grad school speech ready for when you meet new people: your field, what you study and what you plan to do with your degree.
32. You actually begin to miss having homework during holiday breaks.
33. You feel like a fake and wonder when the other members of academia will catch on and kick you out of the program.
34. Constantly checking your email and, when nothing arrives, demanding someone nearby double check the Internet is working. It is.
35. Your basic human priorities that were once eat, drink and sleep are now replaced with papers, books and due dates.
36. Your thoughts are no longer simplistic – you only have two response modes for conversation: verbal thesis or completely tongue-tied.
37. You give yourself pep talks in your head and one day you catch yourself doing it out loud, in public.
38. You’re constantly trying to come up with clever comebacks to annoying questions regarding grad school. Isn’t it expensive?What kind of job can you even get with that degree?
39. Speaking to people outside of grad school becomes difficult because you now use words that are not applicable to daily life, like “hegemony” or “praxis.”
40. Over-thinking has become a hobby of yours.
41. Anxiety ensues when you’re on break because you keep feeling like you’ve forgotten to do something, even though you haven’t.
42. Rewarding yourself with mundane tasks once you’ve completed a paper, like putting your laundry in the dryer. How exciting!
43. Planning your day around one simple task or errand that you never actually accomplish.
I guess I can do that tomorrow…
44. You now find weird or unfunny things hilarious, like making up ridiculous hypothetical situations involving other students or your professors.
45. Trying to figure out if you aren’t eating regularly because you’re broke or because you’re too busy. You settle on the fact that it’s a combination of the two.
46. You feel fantastically brilliant one moment, which is short-lived because you feel dumb-as-a-rock the next.
47. The professor you want to learn most from seems to dislike you and only you.
48. You realize you have so many books overdue at the library that the fees require a payment plan. Then you remember the ridiculous amount of debt you’ve acquired to attend graduate school and have a mini panic attack about both situations.
49. Trying to figure out what a dissertation actually is while you’re trying to work on one.
You then console yourself with the fact that nobody else seems to know, either.
50. Realizing your work is valuable and the process was worthwhile, even after you’ve been repeatedly critiqued, rejected and denied by countless scholars, publications and departments you respect.
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