Students watch as their after-school assignments — an extension of the classroom — pile up. Day after day, children and teens spend up to eight hours in school, sharpening their learning abilities and cramming in tons of new information. As if that extensive timeline wasn’t enough, students are often pushed past their limits, which many times has a detrimental impact on their overall wellness.
Although the benefits of assigned homework are thought to be significant, problems arise as students’ health, intentions and overall drive are affected by the rigor of homework assigned by schools across the globe.
Revising the workload that is assigned to students can mean a significant decrease in health problems. According to the website Healthline, a Stanford University study found that excessive homework in teens was linked to physical health problems, along with high levels of stress and disrupted sleep. That study, originally published in The Journal of Experimental Education, indicated that anything over two hours of homework per night was counterproductive.
The tutoring program Oxford Learning suggests that disproportionate homework loads can also result in poor eating habits, as families choose fast food as a faster meal alternative.
Along with poor eating habits, many individuals face sleep deprivation. The website of the American Psychological Association tells the story of a Massachusetts sophomore named Hannah Bruce, who struggled to get to school before her first class at 7:35 a.m. Her day stretched from a 7 a.m. bus pickup to swim practice that ended at 10 p.m. She found it nearly impossible to finish her homework and wind down before 11 p.m. Getting less than the recommended eight hours of sleep, Hannah struggled to pay attention in class and complete her homework with intention. Sleep deprivation can be caused by not just homework, but by the unnecessary stress it causes.
A claim often made by school systems is that students need to learn time management skills and practices for the “real world.” Many argue that the workload is simply to increase productivity among students. There is some truth to, and appreciation for, these intentions, but once students reach the two-hour mark, homework often becomes counterproductive, as the Stanford study found.
Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, a professional counselor who works with adolescents, wrote this in U.S. News & World Report: “Most adults don’t work a full-time job and then go home and do three more hours of work, and neither should your child.”
This counters the claim that homework prepares teenagers for the future; in reality, most adults aren’t expected to perform several hours of work at home.
Both the National Education Association and the National PTA created a standard of 10 minutes of homework per grade level per evening, which would mean a maximum of two hours for high school seniors.
The National Center for Educational Statistics found that high school students average 6.8 hours of homework per week. That’s the average, but many students are doing more.
This can make it harder to complete assignments with purpose, rather than just going through the motions.
The website of Oxford Learning states that 40% of high school students are chronically disengaged from school, due to heavy workloads from previous nights.
To live up to the expectations, many children worry if they will actually be able to complete assignments on their own, especially in lower grade levels. Homework can be stressful not just for students, but for parents. When the work is too difficult and pressure builds up, frustration and tension arise.
By analyzing the rigor of homework assigned, there could be a change in the purpose of homework itself. If the recommendation of assigning 10 minutes of homework per grade level was followed, these common effects of excessive homework could be altered. There can always be a positive outcome if educators look into their own intentions.
Gracyn Schmid is in grade 11 at Ephrata High School.