Can Homework Actually Hurt Your Grades?

Monday, January 8, 2018

Wake up. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Go to class for seven hours. Run six miles. Come home. Shower. Eat. Work on homework. Study. Go to bed. Repeat. 

I’m sure if you asked most high school students in America, their schedule would have a similar resemblance to this. With this overloaded schedule, where is there any free time to hang out with friends, go to an athletic event, or even just spend some much-needed family time? We are living in a world where students are overzealously pressured to perform at high standards and are expected to be well rounded at the same time. A recent study by the American Psychological Association shows that teenagers are more stressed than adults during the school year. If future generations are continually put under this amount of pressure and their stress stays at this tremendously high level, their future will be riddled with other health issues. 

Imagine coming home after a seven hour day at school and a two hour practice, and then realizing that you have three and a half hours of homework and studying to do. You are already tired from your long day and you really don’t feel like doing your homework, but you know if you don’t do it you will get even more behind. Between the time spent at school, sports, and homework, 12 and a half hours of your day are taken up. Plus you know that you need to get a good amount of sleep so that you can focus tomorrow at school. The National Sleep Foundation says that teenagers need at least nine hours of sleep per night but says that less than 15 percent of teenagers even get eight hours of sleep per night. This lack of sleep leads to mood swings, drowsy driving, and worsened academic performance. America’s test scores are right around the middle of the international range, and this mediocre performance could be attributed to an overwhelming amount of stress on our students with little to no downtime. 

In 2007, 59 countries participated in the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study, of these 59 countries, East Asia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, who are all among the top 10 in both mathematics and science scores, reported data, which was below the international average, for time spent on work outside of school. Does this data show the connection between less homework and better grades? A group of researchers based in Australia have made it their goal to find this out. One of the most influential scientists in the group, Richard Walker, an educational physicist at Sydney University, stated that, while participating in the PISA, a standardized test taken in multiple countries, most students with higher scores had spent less time on homework. This same result has consistently shown up in other tests. These results are a pretty good answer to the question of a connection between higher tests score and less homework, but not only does this excess stress affect performances in school, it also has significant effects on the physical and mental health of the students. 

According to a survey done every year by the CDC on youth risk behavior, one out of every six teenagers has considered suicide and one out of every 12 have attempted to kill themselves. Some of these attempts can be attributed to the overwhelming stress and pressure put on students to do so much. Less than 1 percent of students said they didn’t consider school a stressor and 56 percent accredited most of their stress to school work. Stanford University says that this number is higher in upper and middle-class families because they are in more difficult schools and feel as if they have more pressure on them. This stress can lead to a serious health issue called distress. Distress causes headaches, high blood pressure, upset stomach, and trouble sleeping. Harris Cooper, a professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University, suggests that in order for students to not become so overwhelmed, a second grader should spend between 10-15 minutes on work outside of school per night, and this amount should increase by only 10-15 minutes each year. 

"When I talk to parents … they want their kids to be well-rounded, creative, happy individuals — not just kids who ace the tests,” stated Gerald LeTendre, a professor at Pennsylvania State University. He also says that since most homework has a pretty neutral or even negative effect on grades, students should participate in other activities such as sports or music in order to learn other beneficial skills. Amil Khelil, an alumnus of Rochester University, writes that sports provide an outlet for students to relax, get fit, have fun, and make new friends. However it does not only help people in the present, it also helps in the long term by teaching them accountability, teamwork, and working to accomplish a goal (Benefits of Sports to Students). These skills come in handy just as much if not more than those learned in school in the workplace. 

Although too much homework can put a great amount of stress on students, Walker found that it is beneficial to students in the 10th-12th grades. It is important to these older students because it starts to prepare them for college and life in the working world away from home. Students who complete their homework assignments are also more engaged in school, but they are under more stress so they could end up with stress-related health problems in the future. 

If we do not address this issue of students being put under too much stress, the students of today, who will one day be the leaders of our world, will have both mental and physical illnesses that have never been dealt with at such a high rate, and will be even farther behind the countries, who are paying attention to this rising problem.

Benjamin Niehaus

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