Too Much Homework?

Published May 1, 2003

Homework is an accepted part of children’s coursework, starting as early as first grade. But how much is too much?

The National PTA suggests children in kindergarten through second grade receive 10-20 minutes of homework each night. In grades three through six, that recommended amount increases to 30-60 minutes nightly. In middle and high school, the amount depends on the number and level of difficulty of classes a student takes.

Figure 4: Homework and Student Achievement
Figure 5: Hours of Homework per School Day

Erlyne Osburn is an elementary school teacher in the Chicago area with background in both private and public schools. She said homework has great value, but wonders if it is taking over the lives of children in some parts of the country. Her own child, a second grade student, has become “distracted and disengaged in the classroom” because of added homework, according to Osburn.

“Not all children work at the same rate, so allowances should be made for those children who work slowly or more rapidly,” she said.

However, reading at home plays an important role in the educational process, said Osburn. Studies show children need to read for at least 30 minutes per day in order to become more efficient readers.

Test score data for twelfth-graders from NAEP also show an increase in student achievement with an increase in the amount of time spent in doing homework. (See Figure 4.)

Are children doing more homework? Evidence here is mixed.

John Buell, who has written on the subject under the title, “The Trouble with Homework,” cites a recent study from the University of Michigan which reported that the amount of time spent on homework by six- to eight-year-olds rose by as much as 30 minutes a night from 1981 to 1999. However, the Koret Task Force’s just-issued book, Our Schools and Our Future (Hoover Press, 2003), reports the hours of homework per school day for the average American high school student have been falling since the early 1970s. (See Figure 5.)

Mike Scott is a freelance writer from Waterford, Michigan. His email address is [email protected].

For more information … The National Center for Education Statistics makes the data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress available by a wide range of demographic and other factors by means of a Data Tool at