The truth about homework

The sound of an alarm clock shrieking at 6 a.m. is the most horrible sound to wake up to. For students like Charley Bernardo, it signals the start of yet another exasperating day of hard work that begins with the unfinished homework from the previous night.

“The worst is when you know you can’t keep sleeping because you have to finish your homework,” said Bernardo. “And my bed is so warm in the mornings, so I never want to get up.”

Students like Bernardo are forced to finish their homework in the mornings, since their long days and extracurricular activities leave them exhausted and unwilling to complete hours of homework.“I feel like some teachers give ‘busy work,’” said Mateen Nozzari. “Sometimes there’s just too much. Teachers shouldn’t give out extra homework to everyone just because some people aren’t studying enough for quizzes and tests.”

So here lies the real question: If students must endure long hours of tiresome work, does homework ultimately help or hinder student learning?

And to what extent does that answer go to when taking into account the amount of time spent on assignments?

According to a 2004 national survey of 2,900 American children conducted by the University of Michigan, the amount of time spent on homework has risen 51 percent since 1981.

Currently, some parents worry that their children spend too much time on vast amounts of homework.

“As a parent, I believe that homework is a beneficial tool. But I also think it’s overused,” said teacher Jim Kelly. “I understand that teachers give a lot of homework to reinforce the importance of education, but I don’t need to see my daughter in fourth grade doing three hours of homework each night.”

Kelly also believes that large amounts of homework affect a student’s well-being, saying that “kids need to be able to spend time at school, do extracurricular activities, have a social life, practice a spiritual or religious life, and still get the right amount of sleep.”

A lot of students agree with Kelly and express how hard it is to add homework to their already packed schedules.

“I literally leave my house at 7:30 a.m. and don’t get home until 9:30 p.m. every day because I have dance team practice after school,” said junior Logan McPherson. “The absolute last thing I want to do when I get home is my homework. But I have to, because if I don’t, then my grades will go down.”

Students with many extracurriculars can often feel overwhelmed when they receive too much homework, which can eventually affect their grades.

A study conducted by Jennifer Fredricks, associate director of human development at Connecticut College, found that students with more than five extracurricular activities a week had a four percent lower grade average than students without extracurriculars due to increased stress levels and lack of sleep.

With that said, Kelly believes that a school should not just consider the “intellectual well-being of the student,” but the school should also “be a partner in the child’s overall well-being.”

Brent Tom is taking three AP classes and has several extracurriculars, as well as a job.

“It’s hard to balance everything,” Tom said. “There is so much pressure to do extra activities in addition to all of our school work, that the large amounts of homework we get are practically unbearable.”

However, Tom realizes that “when it comes down to it, we choose our own classes, which will determine our homework amount. It doesn’t mean that I like homework, though. I don’t think anyone does, to be honest.”

Kelly believes that homework is actually driving students away from learning, and can see that first-hand by observing his son.

His son sees homework as drudgery and is losing the enjoyment of actually learning a subject. He hates it so much he is finding ways to get around it.

“As teachers we prepare our students for college because it’s just what we do. But we’ve gotten away from learning for learning sake, and now we learn just to pass a test. That’s not what education should be about,” stated Kelly.

On the other hand, teacher Rebecca Pearlman offered a different take on homework in relation to a student’s success.

“If the test is written well, it will test on concepts and not mechanics. It should be both an assessment and a push towards problem solving. It is therefore worthwhile. Homework is an opportunity to practice and to make sure you understand the material presented in class. If you don’t do the practice problems, then you will not be in shape for the test,” Pearlman concluded.

Teacher Kristine Weisman said that homework will allow students to “understand the material better and be prepared for class, but if you have other obligations like extracurriculars, then you need to make a decision about the costs and benefits you can choose whether or not to do it. It really depends on the maturity of the student.”

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