Is Homework Necessary In Elementary School?

Elementary school kids have a full plate these days. Between school and extracurricular activities, the last thing they want to do when they get home is hours of homework. But is homework even necessary at all? Does it help our students improve their academic performance?

If you look back at the history of homework, in the early 1900’s homework was nonexistent. This was because children often helped their families with important chores like tending to farms, animals, etc. Fast forward to the 1950’s when there was pressure for the United States to keep up with Russia in the Space Race and the thought was that students were falling behind the Russian students. Teachers began to assign homework to their students. In the 1980’s there is a feeling that American education is just mediocre and in the 1990’s the majority of educators and the general public are in favor of homework.

A study was done in 2006 by Duke researcher Harris Cooper concluded that homework does have a positive effect on student achievement with a much stronger correlation in for those in middle school rather than elementary school. But, too much homework can be counter-productive for students in all grades. Cooper said the research is consistent with the “10-minute rule” suggesting the optimum amount of homework that teachers ought to assign. The “10-minute rule,” Cooper said, is a commonly accepted practice in which teachers add 10 minutes of homework as students progress one grade. In other words, a fourth-grader would be assigned 40 minutes of homework a night, while a high school senior would be assigned about two hours. For upper high school students, after about two hours’ worth, more homework was not associated with higher achievement. The authors suggest many reasons for why older students benefit from homework than younger students. Elementary teachers may assign homework to establish study skills.
“Kids burn out,” Cooper said. “The bottom line really is all kids should be doing homework, but the amount and type should vary according to their developmental level and home circumstances. Homework for young students should be short, lead to success without much struggle, occasionally involve parents and, when possible, use out-of-school activities that kids enjoy, such as their sports teams or high-interest reading.”

There needs to be conversations in elementary schools about what kind, how much, and the importance of the homework teachers are assigning. Teachers need to collaborate, especially if there is a departmentalized model taking place throughout the grade levels, to ensure too much homework is not given.

Cooper, H. 2006. Homework Helps Students Succeed in School As Long As It’s Not Too Much.