Students wrestling with homework

High school, love it or hate it, has obtained quite the reputation for an overload of work. Though through all the trials and tribulations that high school will provide, homework seems to be the kingpin of day-ruining factors.

A recent Hi-Line survey including freshmen to seniors looked to answer these basic questions on homework: how much is received, does it cause stress and does it positively or negatively impact grades.

According to Huffington Post, American students will spend an average of six hours a week doing homework, but the Hi-Line survey found that 50 percent of CFHS students spend an average of at least two hours a night doing homework. Around 50 percent of students said it “always” creates stress, with another 25 percent saying “often.”

A third of students also reported that homework has a direct negative effect on the grades they receive in classes.

The survey allowed for anonymous explanations of how homework affects students. One of the top responses was sleep.

According to Nationwide Children’s Hospital, teenagers need around nine and a half hours of sleep a night for proper brain development. They also found that the average teenager today receives about seven hours of sleep.

According to the survey, students are aware that their sleep routines aren’t the healthiest, but is homework really to blame?

One anonymous response said homework not only takes away sleep, but also relaxation. “It creates more busywork without actually teaching me anything. I feel so anxious and stressed when I’m not able to finish it, and sometimes I’ll fall asleep at one in the morning with half my homework done.”

Another top reason that students gave was the lack of learning that homework provides. One student said, “Homework very rarely ever helps. If you already understand something, the homework is pointless because you have a firm grasp of the concept already and probably don’t need the practice. However, if you don’t understand the subject, the homework is also pointless because in all likelihood you will still not understand the concept when you’re done, and you will likely just be practicing it wrong.”

Debates on whether or not homework is effective or not is nothing new. Finland is often praised for its non-homework model, and the United States is often encouraged to follow suit.

In 1960’s through the 1980s, education systems in the United States and Finland ranked relatively the same, falling at about 30th on the list of education systems.

Then in the early 2000s Finland did away with homework, shortened its school days and they shot right up to number one.

“They do not have homework,” Krista Kiuru, minister of education in Finland, said. “They should have more time to be kids, to be youngsters, to enjoy their lives.” Finland held its number one ranking until 2015, but other countries took notice of the changes in Finland and modeled systems the same way.

The United States still lands at about 30th on the rankings of education systems.

Cedar Falls counselor Susan Langan sees the effects that homework has on students on a weekly basis. Without giving a specific number, Langan said she sees a lot of students every week coming to her office feeling stressed about homework. “When a kid comes in feeling stressed, I try and help them break down what they need to do and split things up. Sometimes I encourage them to get help, but a lot of times they don’t like to get help because they feel teachers won’t think they’re capable.”

Langan also said she feels that stress levels would be reduced if the homework wasn’t quite as hefty. “For a lot of teachers, giving lots of homework is just something they’ve always done. I’d like to see teachers give less homework. I mean, [students] will still have homework, but maybe instead of five pages, it could be reduced to one. I really do worry about it. Kids want to take tough classes, but when we’re also on them to do college applications, FAFSA and scholarships, the workload can get huge.”

Langan said she worries about what these large work loads mean for the development of students.

“I think that with all these AP classes and busy schedules, middle schoolers are dealing with things that high schoolers typically deal with, and high schoolers are dealing with stuff college students usually deal with, so I wouldn’t mind seeing things slow down. Taking advanced classes are good if you’re ready, but there’s no need to rush. It’s important to spend your time as high schooler enjoying aspects of life.”

A homework free school system may not be as far out of reach as once thought. In 2011, the New York Times did an article on homework restrictions being enforced on schools in New Jersey. The author of the article, Vicki Abeles, is a renowned filmmaker, known for her work criticizing educational systems. In her article, Abeles described, “a wave of districts across the nation trying to remake homework amid concerns that high stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a nightly grind that is stressing out children and depriving them of play and rest, yet doing little to raise achievement, especially in elementary grades.”

A homework free future is exciting for students, but it is likely scary for teachers. Research points to negatives that homeworks brings, but the idea that “practice makes perfect” cannot be ignored in any facet of schooling. Whether homework is helping students pass classes or destroying development, homework doesn’t seem to wither in the scrutiny.

Kiuru and Langan both commented on how homework in America may be here for longer than than students would like.

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