Overloading homework proven to lead to less success

By Diana Leane

Staff Writer

Sophomore Kate Dinsmore panicked as she discovered she had a 14 list stem test the next day that she hadn’t studied for yet.  With 350 stems to memorize and the rest of her homework to complete, Dinsmore was pulling her hair out.

Taking three honors and one AP class, Dinsmore regularly has three hours of homework a night.  The little free time Dinsmore gets she spends on studying for upcoming tests.

According to the National Education Association’s guidelines, students should be assigned no more than 10 minutes of homework per grade level each night.  For example, a first grader should have ten minutes of homework at the most, and a twelfth grader should have 120 minutes max.

Prospect High School has a very grueling curriculum when it comes to homework.  Dinsmore agreed the large homework load she has makes her less motivated to want to learn.

“It makes me kind of upset that I have to do all of this work and I can’t really enjoy my life all the time,” said Dinsmore.  “I just feel like this is too much for one kid just because she’s in honors and AP.”

Dinsmore admitted that she struggled more with her honors classes than her AP classes.  In her honors classes she received more homework that took longer than her regular classes’ homework.  The most time consuming part of it all for Dinsmore was studying.

Many people might assume more homework means more academic progress, and according to a Duke University study, they would be correct.  However, that study also showed giving students too much homework can be counter-productive.

“Even for high school students, overloading them with homework is not associated with higher grades,” said Harris Cooper–professor of psychology and director of Duke’s Program in Education.

Dinsmore isn’t the only one at Prospect High School stressing over homework.  Junior Paul Baczek is taking three AP classes and two honors classes and has one and a half hours of homework regularly a night.  Homework mostly affects his free time on the weekends.

Baczek would stress over his homework if he knew he hadn’t completed it yet, but it has gotten to the point he stresses about it even though it has already been completed.

Though the homework at Prospect is tough, teachers believe the end result is worth the effort.  Prospect AP human geography teacher Erik Hodges believes the homework he gives is very beneficial for preparing students for college.

Hodges doesn’t feel students should be pressured, but he believes they need to learn how to fulfill academic assignments outside of the classroom for when they go to college.

In college, professors assign students readings, and it is up to the student to complete the reading on their own.  Hodges believes Prospect’s homework system is structured, but just enough so students are prepared for college assignments when they leave high school.

In the AP human geo class he teaches he gives out readings for homework, and when

the students go to class the next day he reinforces the concept.

Prospect counselor Dr. Lynn Thornton agrees that Prospect’s homework should prepare students for college, but she believes not many teachers are giving assignments to students that accomplish this task.

Though most teachers wouldn’t admit it, Thornton believes sometimes teachers give “busywork” as homework.  “Busywork” is homework assigned to students just so they have something to do for homework even though it doesn’t have a significant purpose.

When Thornton was going to high school at Maine South, she received minimal homework–though she wasn’t in honors and AP classes.  Although she didn’t experience much stress, she assumes the students in honors and AP were stressed.  However, she never noticed.

“It [stress] didn’t manifest itself the way it does now,” said Thornton.

Since Thornton is a counselor she often encounters students stressed out due to the large homework load.  Her best advice to handling homework is managing time.

Many students stress out because they procrastinate until the last minute to complete an assignment.   She advises students to stay organized with their assignments.

“What I want is for the kid to be proactive (about stress),” Thornton said. “Not reactive.”