Can You Imagine A World Where You Never Had To Do Homework Ever Again?

As recent studies suggest it does more harm than good, the future of homework as we know it is up in the air.

Raise of hands -- How many of us pretty much despise homework?

Well, good news: It looks like the future of homework as we know it is kind of up in the air.

Recently P.S. 116, an elementary school in NYC, decided to stop giving out homework all together, based on studies that say homework isn't very helpful for students. While the school has received both praise and criticism for this, they could be on to something.

Dr. Denise Pope is a Senior Lecturer at Stanford and the author of “Doing School: How We Are Creating a Generation of Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students” and the soon-to-be-released “Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids.” She’s been studying the results of homework for more than a decade and she says that while some appropriately crafted homework might be okay, loading up on homework is not the way to go.



“For my doctoral dissertation, I followed five high-achieving high school students at what is thought of as a very good public high school in the Bay Area,” Dr. Pope told MTV News. “I was looking for what was working and what we could learn from these schools. This is what I found: the kids who were getting very good grades and were touted by the school were doing way, way, way too many hours of homework. They were sleeping way, way, way too few hours and were completely over scheduled. In the middle of shadowing one kid, she was diagnosed with a bleeding ulcer.”

Furthermore, in her study only a minority of students thought the homework they were doing was meaningful and valuable. “A lot of it felt to them like it was busywork.”

Earlier this month, researchers from Spain’s University of Oviedo released a study that found doing homework was okay for students, as long as it wasn't too much homework. They found an hour total for math and science was sufficient, and adding on more and more homework didn’t make students better — in fact, it made them worse.



Dr. Pope's org Challenge Success, which used more than twenty studies on homework for its papers, found similar results, reporting, "[I]n a recent study comparing the standardized math scores across multiple countries, no positive link was found between student math achievement and the frequency or amount of homework given (Baker & LeTendre, 2005). Another study found that countries that gave students more math homework actually had lower overall math test scores than those that gave students less math homework..."

Some of this had to do with student burnout, anxiety, and not getting enough sleep.

When told about the study from Spain, Dr. Pope said, “Much of the research has found, after about two hours total, the positive effects — if any — of homework decrease. An hour sounds great to me. On average, what we’re seeing at the very high achieving schools is kids doing three-and-a-half, four, five hours of homework a night. If we know that the benefits decrease at about two hours, that’s a lot of precious time being spent to no avail.”



Like P.S. 116, Dr. Pope says homework doesn't help younger kids so much. “At the elementary school level, there is really no correlation between homework and academic achievement,” she said. “We are absolutely in favor of elementary schools getting rid of homework and encouraging free reading, which is known to be connected to academic engagement.”

But what about teenagers? The stakes seem much higher when college applications are on the horizon.

“At the middle school and high school level, it really depends,” she said. “There are many schools that feel they can teach everything they need to teach. There are often people who confuse rigor with load. You can be extremely rigorous and not overload kids. If the school feels they can meet what they need to meet and get kids excited and learning and meeting the requirements for their grade level without homework, I think that’s fabulous.”

While some homework might be beneficial for older students, both Dr. Pope and the new study really stress quality over quantity. In fact, quantity can have some really negative repercussions.

“Most of the kids who are earnest and doing a lot of homework are often involved in some extracurricular activities, which take up time,” she said. “So they do six, seven hours of school, then they do anywhere from one to three to four hours of extracurricular. By the time you get home, you’ve had a really long day, longer than most adult work days. Then you’re told you have to do several more hours of homework. So you’re also not efficient because you’re exhausted. If a teacher thinks, ‘Oh, this will take you about half an hour,’ if you start it after a full day, it’s going to take you even longer.” Dr. Pope also noted that too much homework might turn young people off of school and learning, and we don't want that.



And that’s not all. “It also gets in the way of family time, which we know is a really important protective factor for teens,” she said. “If you are not spending an adequate amount of time touching base with your family, enjoying time together, that’s how kids tend to fall through the cracks.”

Dr. Pope was also able to clear up another misunderstanding. “Everyone’s always saying, ‘Oh, the U.S. kids have less homework than kids in other countries.’ Well, that’s not true. In many of the international countries that outscore us on international tests, they get far less homework than we have.”



While all this might seem like we should throw homework out altogether, none of this ought to be confused with the importance of learning. In fact, part of the point of less homework, experts might say, is so young people have more time for reading and extracurricular activities. These things have known benefits for your smarts, well-being and academic achievements.

And if and when you do get homework, it ought to be beneficial and interesting so it can actually get you engaged in the subject. Dr. Pope's org Challenge Success notes, "[S]everal studies have shown that when students have some choice over assignments, such as which topics to write about or which problems to do, they are more likely to be engaged in the work and complete it... If homework is going to be assigned, it should be developmentally appropriate, meaningful, and engaging for the students."

(MTV News reached out P.S. 116 for comment, but we were told the principal is not doing interviews at this time.)

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