Stats On Amount Of Homework In High School

CORRECTED

Amidst the current backlash against homework, it would be helpful to get some real data on how much homework we're actually talking about.

The college of education at the for-profit University of Phoenix recently took a stab at it, asking Harris Poll to survey teachers about the hours of homework they require and why they assign it. The pollsters talked to 1,005 teachers in public, private, and parochial schools across the United States, a group designed to be a representative sample of the nation's 3.7 million teachers.

High school teachers interviewed said they assign an average of 3.5 hours worth of homework a week. For students who study five days a week, that's 42 minutes a day per class, or 3.5 hours a day for a typical student taking five classes.

Middle school teachers (grades 6-8) assigned roughly the same amount: 3.2 hours of homework a week, or 38.4 minutes a day per class. That adds up to 3.2 hours of homework a night for a student with five classes. K-5 teachers said they assigned an average of 2.9 hours of homework each week.

The data reflect what anecdotally shocks many parents: homework loads jump in middle school.

Teachers' top three reasons for assigning homework were to see how well students understand lessons, help students develop essential problem-solving skills, and show parents what's being learned in school. Just 30 percent of teachers chose covering more content as one of their top reasons for assigning homework.

The survey also finds that the longer a teacher has been in the classroom, the less homework they assign, said Tanya Burden, a spokeswoman for the University of Phoenix.

Here's a breakdown of weekly homework assigned, by years of experience:

3.6 hours (teachers with less than 10 years in the classroom)

3.1 hours (teachers with 10 to 19 years in the classroom)

2.8 hours (teachers with more than 20 years in the classroom)

Homework has come under fire from parents and administrators who worry that hours of after-school assignments are stressing students out. Education Week recently reported on research indicating that students with heavy loads of homework were significantly more likely to be sleep-deprived, particularly if the homework load had jumped between ages 12 and 15. Others question whether required assignments are necessary for learning.

But doth Americans protest too much? The Atlantic recently ran a group of photos showing children doing homework after natural disasters and war had displaced them. It's a good reminder that in many places, homework is considered a privilege, not a burden.

CORRECTION (Feb. 28): The original version of this blog post included incorrect figures on the time for homework assigned each day per class for both high school teachers and middle school teachers.

Next time you want to complain about the amount of homework you do, remember that students in Shanghai spend an average of over 14 hours per week on take-home work.

A recent brief from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that American 15-year-olds spent an average of six hours a week on homework in 2012. By comparison, students from all OECD countries were spending an average of about 4.9 hours a week on homework. On the low end of the spectrum, teens from countries like Korea and Finland spent less than three hours a week on after-school work, while teens from Russia spent about 10, and students from Shanghai spent about 14 hours.

Since 2003, the average amount of time 15-year-olds spend on homework per week dropped by about an hour. In the United States, the average time spent on homework remained unchanged, as shown in the graph below:


Source: PISA in Focus 46, OECD

Still, the brief found that socio-economically advantaged students tend to spend more time on homework than their low-income counterparts, leading researchers to speculate about whether homework helps perpetuate existing inequities in education.

"The bottom line: Homework is another opportunity for learning; but it may also reinforce disparities in student achievement," says the study. "Schools and teachers should look for ways to encourage struggling and disadvantaged students to complete their homework."


Source: PISA in Focus 46, OECD

Overall, the brief says that while the amount of time an individual student spends on homework may be correlated with their exam scores, the average amount of time students in a country spend on homework does not hold such correlation. To glean this conclusion, researchers looked at countries' scores on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests.


Source: PISA in Focus 46, OECD

"The amount of time students spend doing homework is related to their individual performance in PISA and to their school’s PISA performance: students who spend more time doing homework tend to score higher in PISA, as do their schools," says the report. "But PISA also finds that the average number of hours that students spend on homework or other study set by teachers tends to be unrelated to the school system’s overall performance."

According to the report, this likely means that factors like teacher quality and school system organization have a bigger impact on a country's overall performance than homework.

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