This conclusion is generally accepted among educators, in part because it’s compatible with “the 10-minute rule,” a rule of thumb popular among teachers suggesting that the proper amount of homework is approximately 10 minutes per night, per grade level—that is, 10 minutes a night for first graders, 20 minutes a night for second graders, and so on, up to two hours a night for high schoolers.
In Cooper’s eyes, homework isn’t overly burdensome for the typical American kid.
In August 2017, it rolled out an updated policy, which emphasized that homework should be “meaningful” and banned due dates that fell on the day after a weekend or a break.“The first year was a bit bumpy,” says Louann Carlomagno, the district’s superintendent.
She says the adjustment was at times hard for the teachers, some of whom had been doing their job in a similar fashion for a quarter of a century. Carlomagno says they took some time to “realize that it was okay not to have an hour of homework for a second grader—that was new.”Most of the way through year two, though, the policy appears to be working more smoothly.
He points to a 2014 Brookings Institution report that found “little evidence that the homework load has increased for the average student”; onerous amounts of homework, it determined, are indeed out there, but relatively rare.
Moreover, the report noted that most parents think their children get the right amount of homework, and that parents who are worried about under-assigning outnumber those who are worried about over-assigning.Because many of these parents already feel connected to their school community, this benefit of homework can seem redundant.“They don’t need it,” Schneider says, “so they’re not advocating for it.”That doesn’t mean, necessarily, that homework is more vital in low-income districts.Cooper says that those latter worries tend to come from a small number of communities with “concerns about being competitive for the most selective colleges and universities.”, considers homework to be a “reliable extinguisher of curiosity,” and has several complaints with the evidence that Cooper and others cite in favor of it.Kohn notes, among other things, that Cooper’s 2006 meta-analysis doesn’t establish causation, and that its central correlation is based on children’s (potentially unreliable) self-reporting of how much time they spend doing homework.Cooper conducted a review of the existing research on homework in the mid-2000s, and found that, up to a point, the amount of homework students reported doing correlates with their performance on in-class tests.This correlation, the review found, was stronger for older students than for younger ones.“The students do seem to be less stressed based on conversations I’ve had with parents,” Carlomagno says.It also helps that the students performed just as well on the state standardized test last year as they have in the past.Jack Schneider, an education professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell whose daughter attends school in Somerville, is generally pleased with the new policy.But, he says, it’s part of a bigger, worrisome pattern.