Does Homework Work?

Brad M. Griffin | Oct 28, 2011

Last year the documentary Race to Nowhere caught some attention for cracking open the high-pressure side of American education and child-rearing through interviews with students whod had enough. Steven Johnson wrote a great article for our site about it, and it has been one of the most-utilized resources over the past year.

I think there are a number of reasons this topic has struck a chord. Parents and youth workers feel the pressure being placed on kids, even while we may be some of the ones applying that pressure.

In a positive twist to all this, some schools (often via parents) are beginning to fight back in a pointed way: against homework. This week the NY Times shared that some elite New York schools are lowering their homework requirements, or at least considering it.

Citing research led by Stanfords Denise Pope, [students] with more than 3.5 hours of homework a night had an increased risk of physical and mental health issues, like sleep deprivation, ulcers and headaches. Another study of over 10,000 students found that two thirds of them were stressed out most of the time. Earlier this year a similar article highlighted that even educators are pushing back in some cases at the ways homework requirements have ballooned. Studies have shown little connection between homework and test performance at all, let alone when it involves hours of labor every night (often in exchange for much-needed sleep).

This hits close to home for me, as homework is often a struggle in our family. This year weve been nailed with extra projects on top of a nightly grind of sometimes more than two hours. Thats for my fourth-grader (!), and thats a low-income public school workload. There arent many parents pushing a more homework agenda at this school. Its just standard issue now for most kids, across all kinds of socioeconomic status and geography.

Steven offered some great tips in his article for confronting and helping ease anxiety and stress among students who feel caught up in this race to perform. What other ideas do you have, related to homework or other areas of pressure? How can we speak and act prophetically into the systems that are stealing life and joy from the kids we know and love?

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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