Homework: how much is too much?

Reagen Reilly '24

Students at SSSAS have a thousand things on their minds. Some play sports, some participate in the fall play, some write for The Voice, and all of them go to school for more than 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. We have four classes a day where we work for 70 minutes, using up all of our brain power. On top of this, the activity that dominates most students' days with an overwhelming amount of stress is homework. 


At SSSAS, we are taught to aim high and work to the best of our abilities, but sometimes the amount of schoolwork and homework we are given overloads students to the point where they can’t focus on anything else. The students at our school are given too much homework and according to Cynthia Catchings, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist “heavy workloads can also cause serious mental health problems in the long run, like anxiety and depression.” 


According to Healthline, “Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Pharmacy Technician Association (NPTA) support a standard of “10 minutes of homework per grade level.” The 10-minute standard is also corroborated by an article on the Oxford learning website and a Western Governors University article stating that a Duke professor named Harris Cooper’s analysis on homework studies “showed a correlation between completing homework and academic success, at least in older grades.” The article also says he recommends the 10-minute rule. This would mean that in first grade you would get 10 minutes of homework and every grade you go up, the time spent on homework would increase by 10 minutes. So by 12th grade, a student should have two hours of homework. 


 I created a survey asking students what grade they are in, how much homework they get on average each night, and how much stress they usually experience due to how much homework they get. The NEA and NPTA supporting 10 minutes of homework per grade level means that almost every student who filled out my survey should have said that they get 1-2 hours of homework, but this was not the case. 


Out of the 157 responses that I got, 51 of them were freshman. According to the 10-minute rule, teachers are encouraged to give freshman an average of 1 hour and 20 minutes of homework per day. However, about 29 percent of freshman who filled out the survey get at least 3-4 hours of homework, three of them saying that they get over 4 hours. These numbers may seem small in comparison to the rest of the freshmen that reported getting 1-2 hours of homework. However, this data could still mean that there is a large number of freshmen getting 2 hours of homework each night, which is the amount of homework that a senior should get according to the 10-minute rule. 


I received 37 responses from sophomores and 51 percent of sophomores reported that they get 3-4 hours of homework each night. Let me remind you that according to the National Education Association, sophomores should be getting an hour and 40 minutes on average of homework each night.


For juniors, the recommended amount of homework time is 1 hour and 50 minutes. I got 30 responses from juniors. I found that 10 juniors said they get 1-2 hours, 14 juniors said they get 3-4 hours of homework, and 6 juniors said they get over 4 hours. This means that 33 percent of juniors who filled out the survey are getting a healthy amount of homework each night in comparison to the 66 percent who are getting too much. 


Lastly, only 22 seniors responded to the survey, but I do think that the data I found is worth sharing. Seniors on average are recommended to get 2 hours of homework. Out of the 22, 14 seniors said they get 3-4 hours of homework (about 63 percent), 5 said they get over 4 hours (about 22 percent) and 3 said they get 1-2 hours (about 13 percent). 


The data that I have collected on the survey supports my argument, showing that most likely more than half of each grade level is getting over 3 hours of homework each night. A guideline that the teachers at SSSAS are encouraged to follow is 30 minutes of homework per subject, but the amount of time that the students who filled out my survey are spending completing homework each night proves that teachers are going over this limit. 


Another reason that I think we get too much homework is because most homework given repeats what was learned in the class that day. Though it can be helpful to review, the class period is more than enough time for students to grasp a concept if they are working effectively.


According to professionals at Healthline and Oxford Learning, they respectively state, “That study, published in The Journal of Experimental Education, suggested that any more than two hours of homework per night is counterproductive'' and “Too much homework can result in lack of sleep, headaches, exhaustion and weight loss. Excessive homework can also result in poor eating habits, with families choosing fast food as a faster alternative.” 


In accordance with this research, I asked students about how homework affects them personally. When asked whether 11th graders should get less homework Keith Bolen ‘23 states, “I think everybody should have a little less homework.” Keith says that staying up at night doing homework is like “working over time.” I also asked Safira Yisrael ‘24 about her homework situation, “I don’t have any time to do anything but come home and do work.” 


Dr. Sidle spoke about the effects of large amounts of homework saying, “I worry that these years of youth are going to be spent under a lot of stress, and I don’t think it’s worth it.” 


40.6% of the people who filled out the survey said that they were usually at a 4 on the stress level spectrum (63 students). 1 meaning that they are never stressed about homework and 5 meaning that they experience high levels of constant stress because of the amount of homework they get. 34.2% of students who filled out the survey selected 5 (53 students). This leaves only 20.6% responding 3, 3.9% responding 2, 0.6% responding 1 (one person).


Though a majority of the people who filled out the survey reported feeling high levels of stress due to homework, not every student feels overwhelmed about the amount of homework they get. Christian Kappel 24’ states that the homework load is manageable and Amanda Klock 24’ says that “most of my homework helps me to practice things that I learn in class, as well as it has helped me develop time management skills.” Ms. Tyree also speaks about how homework gives students “a chance to practice the material at your own pace” and that “some homework involves discovering something.” When asked about the negative effects of homework she says, “Homework can have a negative effect if the students see it as something to get through rather than something to help their learning.” She also says “A lot of our students are super busy outside of school and it can be difficult for them to balance getting a little bit of homework done with doing whatever else they are doing.”


Perhaps, one of the reasons why we get so much homework is because there is really no way for teachers to communicate with each other on how much homework they are giving. So if one teacher gives homework that takes a student an hour, that student also has to worry about other assignments that take up another hour of their time. This creates a cycle of continuous stress for students. 


As highschool students, it is our job to keep learning and growing but too much homework can actually have the opposite effect, making students dread learning entirely. With so many hours of homework, teenagers waste so much of their time confined inside their rooms instead of spreading time with friends and making memories that they will cherish forever. This is true even for weekends when homework is still very much a priority. 


What I believe would help a lot with balancing homework effectively and reducing stress levels is bringing back the Wednesday schedule. The Wednesday schedule meant that school started an hour later and we would not have tests that day or homework due on that day. This schedule helped a lot amid a pandemic but I also think that it would be worth implementing again. Though the pandemic was stressful, If I sent out a survey last year asking students how stressed they were about the pandemic, I cannot imagine that I would receive as high numbers as I did when I asked them about their homework stress levels.