How Much is Too Much?

You plop down on your bed, exhausted from practice and scan your homework. In AP Bio, you have a lab write-up. In AP World, you have to read six pages and do Cornell notes. In AP Lang; you have yet another essay to write. On top of that, you have a unit test to study for in math. You glance at the clock, 6:30 p.m. You groan as you think, it’s going to be another long night.  

Teens are bombarded with information every day, and homework is an important way for kids to review and make sure they understand the material. When students are introduced to new information, homework helps to reestablish lessons that may not have been completely understood. Homework also assists teachers in figuring out who comprehends the material, and who needs more support.

However, there is a limit to how much homework a student should receive. Students have a full plate with pressure to excel and participate in all facets of school without unnecessary and overzealous homework assignments. After a long day of classes, students, who already put pressure on themselves to join clubs, sports teams, and other activities to impress colleges and enhance their high school experience, need time away from school and schoolwork. Excessive homework adds an extra layer of stress, creating an unbalanced, hectic and taxing lifestyle.

It is possible for one’s health to be jeopardized due to stress over homework. Andrew J. Fuligni, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and a senior scientist at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, explains that, “As other studies have found, our results indicated that extra time spent studying cuts into adolescents’ sleep on a daily basis, and it is this reduced sleep that accounts for the increase in academic problems that occurs after days of increased studying.” Extreme amounts of homework lead to sleep deprivation, which in turn can cause a decrease in performance and alertness. According to William Crain, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at City College of New York, “Kids are developing more school-related stomachaches, headaches, sleep problems, and depression than ever before.” This negative impact outweighs the intended positive effects of increased homework in the first place.

So, how much homework should teenagers get? According to the National Education Association (NEA), a student should only have 10-20 minutes of homework in first grade, and then have 10 more minutes added as they move up in grade level. Thus, a ninth grader should have around 90-100 minutes of homework, and a senior should have 120-130 minutes of homework.

Teachers assign homework they feel is crucial to a students’ understanding of topics taught in class. Using the NEA formula, however, does not entirely work for higher level courses, such as AP. Students should expect more homework in an AP class, but that homework should be essential to a student’s increased understanding of the material. According to studies done by Dr. Harris Cooper, a professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University, high school students who receive 1.5 to 2.5 hours of homework a day do just as well, or better, than students who receive over 2.5 hours of homework. Homework policies should be consistent with the research evidence, but the policies should still be flexible to account for the different needs of students.

Smaller amounts of homework should be enough to check if a student understands a topic. Larger amounts of homework do not allow teachers time to check each problem for accuracy. With less homework to grade, teachers would have more time to plan lessons or help other students.

Homework is definitely a constructive way for teens to make sure they understand what they learned in class. That being said, extreme amounts of homework that can take many hours are not beneficial to either the student or the teacher. The sleep lost due to hours of homework negatively impacts a teen’s overall well-being and her attentiveness during school. Having unnecessary amounts of homework only brings down a teen’s eagerness to learn.