The fall school term brings with it different practices regarding homework. In fact, the homework debate  has been raging for more than 100 years.  “The attitudes about homework undergo changes every few decades, depending on the current trends in society. Perspectives range from homework causing undue stress (1930’s, ‘60’s, 2000’s)  to homework as a way of enhancing achievement (1950’s, ‘80’s, ‘90’s).”  According to a 2014 report from the Brookings Institute, Data do not support the view that the homework burden is growing.” 

The most common purpose of homework can be to provide students with practice and review of in-class topics. In addition, preparation assignments introduce material to help students to obtain maximum benefits when new topics are introduced in class. Homework appears to correlate with higher scores on academic standardized tests for middle and high school students, but not for elementary students. Thus, limiting the amount of homework to about 20 minutes for younger students appears to have positive results.  At this level, the homework should be  assigned with the aim of building self-regulation and independent work skills. 

Research finds that homework may provide some non-academic benefits, such as responsibility and time management. Not surprisingly, homework effort and conscientiousness were systematically related over time in grades 5 through 8. “And, in the case of school, conscientiousness is the most important factor aside from cognitive abilities when it comes to school performance.” 

In the final analysis, homework is valuable only when it has a specific purpose and is developmentally appropriate. Clearly, unless the assignment falls into specified previous categories, its purpose may be questionable. Schools should set consistent homework policies, and they should clearly communicate these policies to parents.

Laura Maniglia