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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a yearlong project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

March 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Report: Typical student spends hour or less on homework

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Many think students these days suffer under a heavy — and growing — load of homework.

But a new report by the Brown Center on Education Policy concludes that’s just not true.

While some face hours of homework each night, as reported in stories like this one in The Atlantic late last year, the Brown researchers say the average homework load hasn’t changed much for the past 30 years.

And the percent of students who report no homework, they say, still is much greater than those who say they do two or more hours a night.

The Center focused on a questionnaire that students fill out when they take a national test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

A sample of students from across the country take NAEP tests every few years.

The questionnaire asks how much time students spend on homework the day before the test.

In 2012, a majority reported an hour or less — the same as in 1984, 1992 and 2008.

The only increase showed up for 9-year-olds. In that age group, there was a jump in the percent who said they had an hour or more, and a drop in those reporting they had none.

The researchers acknowledge it’s possible that teachers don’t assign much homework the night before NAEP tests, so the survey results may understate reality. But they also looked at other data, which backed their conclusion that homework horror stories, while true in some places, are far from the rule.

One of the most interesting indicators: the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA surveys college freshmen each year on how they spend their time during their senior year of high school. The percent who reported spending six or more hours a week studying or doing homework was 38 percent in 2012, down from about half in 1986.

To put that in perspective: 66 percent reported spending six or more hours a week with their friends, 53 percent said they spent that much time exercising or playing sports, and 41 percent worked that many hours.

Are you a parent? How much homework do your kids typically have? Share your thoughts:

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Comments | More in News | Topics: Brown Center on Education Policy, homework, NAEP

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