We’ve all heard the complaints about homework: “My 7-year-old has three hours of homework a night.” “Our 10-year-old is up until 11 pm every night doing homework.” “Billy had to quit after-school sports, because he couldn’t keep up with the homework demands.”
Listening to the cacophony, you’d surely conclude that U.S. students—and their parents—are crushed under the weight of a heavy homework burden.
But is that really the case? Actually, no.
According to the latest version of the annual Brown Center Report on American Education from the Brookings Institution, the reality is substantially different from the hyperbole. A recent article in Education Week summarized the key findings from the report:
The homework burden is not onerous. According to NAEP, only 5 percent of 9-year-olds, 7 percent of 13-year-olds, and 13 percent of 17-year-olds reported spending more than two hours on homework at night—”from which legitimate complaints of being overworked might arise,” Loveless writes—in 2012. Just a little more than a third of college freshmen—the nation’s best students—said they had spent six hours or more a week on homework when they were high school seniors.
The homework load is not growing. For most students, it hasn’t varied much since 1984. The one exception is 9-year-olds, who reported zero homework in 2003. Now they have a little, but less than an hour.
Parents are actually pretty happy with the amount and the quality of homework. Parents who want less homework are a relatively small group; the MetLife survey found that 25 percent of parents want their kids to have more homework, while only 15 percent of parents want them to have less.
Of course there are students that are overburdened and parents who are rightfully concerned, but as Tom Loveless, author of the report observed, “It doesn’t mean the horror stories are fiction, but they’re outliers.”