Guest Blogger: There’s No Time for High School Students to Do Hours of Homework Each Night

When I was in Chicago at the AERA conference two weeks ago, I was on a panel with Chris Ellsasser, an associate professor of education at Pepperdine University, a high school English teacher, and the founder of a group of progressively-minded teachers known as the Mad Tea Educators. Chris approaches homework by asking high school teachers and students one simple question: How much time do we really have? Below is an excerpt from the paper he wrote to accompany the presentation.

Do the Math:
Redesigning Homework to Create More Time for Learning
by Christopher Ward Ellsasser

Time is a finite resource and something which cannot be changed, so it makes sense to begin by establishing exactly how time works for students.

Too often discussions and decision making processes in schools related to issues like homework are based on personal preferences, social norms, and the mythology of schooling. Such a process is akin to medical doctors basing treatment on “gut feeling� rather than science and knowledge of the particular patient. In order to develop policies that reflect the best of what we know about education using the most sophisticated ways of knowing we have, time must be created to establish a baseline of facts. Such is the case with homework. While each school and community has it differences which need to be considered, there is also a shared body of knowledge we can draw from.

Developing a thoughtful approach to homework can begin by doing the math on the time students spend each day. We can begin our calculations by looking at how much time students need to be healthy. The following questions reveal how much time students spend per day on health related activities:

• How much time should students spend sleeping? (9 hours)
• How much time should students spend eating? (three meals = 2 hours
• How much time should students spend exercising? (1 hour)
• Total hours spent maintaining basic health = 12 hours per day

The next consideration is time spent engaged in structured activities such as classes and other organized programs. The following questions reveal how much time students spend on structured activities:

• How much time do students spend in school? (6 hours)
• How much time do students spend in after school activities (i.e. sports, art, work)? (2 hours)
• How much time do students spend commuting = 1 hour
• Total hours spent on structured activities = 9 hours

Once we have accounted for maintaining health and engaging in structured activities (21 hours), students have three hours of discretionary time per day. Of course that assumes the day is without unexpected glitches or distractions. Factor in a conservative thirty minutes twice a day for hygiene/waking up/winding down and you are down to two hours unaccounted for each day.

Given the overwhelming research on the importance of reading, we would be inclined to set aside one hour for reading. Now we are down to one hour per day for school age children to play, relax, or just spend down time with others like friends and family. Regardless of the recommended 10 minutes of homework per day (90 -120 minutes for high school students), even if we eliminate “personal time� today’s high school student only have one hour each day to spend doing homework. So now the question becomes what, if anything, can be done in one hour to enhance the quality of their education.

65 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: There’s No Time for High School Students to Do Hours of Homework Each Night

  1. I strongly agreed
    That is true students don’t need too much homework we have
    6 hours of class work each day plus homework what
    do teachers thing we are? Students with hundreds brains?
    We are still kids we need more time and not have to thing about school work ALL THE TIME!!!!!!!!!!!! i hate school.

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  2. sara, i cant a agree more. i just wrote an essay on this same topic. it sounds like we think a like. all schools should not assign hw. there is still studying that has to be done at home and why should there be hw?

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  3. Haha, what an interesting article. It’s amazing the amount of work some students have to do, or rather, the amount of homework teachers nowadays expect us to do. We shouldn’t be forced to work an ungodly amount of hours in exchange for our well-being!

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  4. my schedule a sixth grade student

    5.45 to 6.45 wake up have shower and breakfast and leave for school
    7.00am to 2.00 pm school and sports
    2.00 to 5.00 pm extra classes
    5.00 to 6.00 pm relax eat breakfast
    7.00pm to 11.00pm homework
    11.00 pm to 11.30 dinner
    11.30 to 5.45 go to bed and sleep

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  5. This post completely disregards the fact that on average American high school students only spend an hour on homework a night and this number is decreasing. The figures are misbased and unsupported in their research. Guessing at time management of high schoolers is incredibly irresponsible if you are trying to make a serious effort to analyze the problem with America’s declinging public education system. Instead you should focus on three key areas that encompass all the variables influencing the system: changes in society, the schools and the system’s functions, and the structure and policy surrounding the education system. There is validity in that some students are over worked, but the majority are choosing to prioritize other aspects over their education.

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  6. homework only takes away time that kids have in which they could be using to do chores etc. but teachers and school board members fail to see and understand that.

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