Needham High School Parents’ Thoughts on Homework

I’ve written about Needham, Massachusetts, high school in this blog before (here and here) and last spring I posted an interview with the outgoing principal, Paul Richards, who had taken numerous steps to reduce stress at the school.

In June, the school released the results of its homework survey of parents. A question on the survey asked if the time students spent on homework was “not enough,” “too much,” “about right” or “don’t know.” Out of the total number of parents who responded to the survey, the largest percentage, 42 percent, felt “too much” time was spent on homework. 38 percent of parents felt the amount of homework was “just right.” Sixteen percent felt there was “not enough” time spent on homework, while 4 percent selected “don’t know.”

As for the amount of time spent on homework, 28.05 percent of the respondents said their children spend between two to three hours on homework each night. The second highest response, 22.65 percent, said one to two hours. 21.95 percent said their children do three to hour hours of homework a night, and 15.68 said their children do more than four hours of homework. 9.58 percent, said their children do less than an hour of homework.

Almost 31 percent of parents with 11th-graders said their children do between three to four hours of homework a night. The second highest percentage, 24.56 percent, said their children do more than four hours.

I hope that, with 42 percent of parents thinking their children spend too much time on homework, the incoming principal will follow the lead of his predecessor and continue to look for ways to reduce homework and stress.

12 thoughts on “Needham High School Parents’ Thoughts on Homework

  1. But this school was supposed to be the vanguard! Why still are almost 22 percent of parents reporting their kids are doing almost four hours of homework? Things may have changed during Paul Richards’ time at the helm, only a quarter report that much. But that’s still way too high.

    And I’m betting that 22 percent are students taking the more challenging courses at the school. And I’ll bet you even more the daily hours expended are a lot higher. Parents go to sleep and don’t always see how much time their kids are putting in.


  2. Hi! I am a student of Southamerica and I think that it is very true! In my country, there is a test to pass to an university and the teachers are always saing “20 days to the test…” Im so stressed!!! Im 18 and the last week I felt asleep at 24.00 and woke up at 4.00 a M to keep on studing for the school.

    It is true that most of the education of my country is very very bad, but there are schools -like mine, and Im very lucky for that- that are good… but they are very expensive. This kind of schools are too “heavy” who wants to be good at the tests.

    When I was little, I remember that I liked to learn, I liked the school… but now I hate it.

    How can I help you to stop the homework?


  3. Okay, so by my count, 65.68% of students are doing 2+ hours of HW a night. Given that anything over 2 hours correlates negatively–per HW research–with student outcomes, then why do only 42% of parents say there’s too much HW? That’s still a sizeable chunk, but it should be 65% or more. Why isn’t every parent whose kid is doing more than 2 hrs saying (screaming!) TOO MUCH? Sorry to be so didactic. I realize there are many teens who can manage such excessive HW, but **can** doesn’t = **should.** What about sleep, exercise, relationships, fun? How long can you postpone a “normal” adolescence? Do we really want a generation of kids acting like teenagers at age 25, 30, 40, or who knows when ’cause they never got to do it when they were actually teens?


  4. Mary, you touch on an important theme. My sister used to say, if you don’t let children be children at ten, they’ll be children at 30. I see it all the time. College students who just wanna have fun, graduates who move into their parents’ basement.

    Why aren’t more parents raising holy hell? That’s the big question. No question a lot of parents are part of the problem and as Susan Ohanian once said to me, school didn’t do this all by themselves. Too many parents cannot see that the Emperor is naked as a buck.


  5. Mary, did you read Valerie Strauss in the Post on Monday? Looks like she’s in our corner! But read about the parents of todays’s preschoolers. Looks as if it’s getting worse, not better. How sad. We are going to raise a generation of neurotic children who will not have the ability to think.


  6. Thanks for the tip–good article. The only thing I’d quibble with is blaming it all on NCLB. I hate NCLB as much as anyone, but I think this is more a broader societal trickle-down of fear. We’re scared our kids won’t get jobs (legitimate fear right about now, let’s face it). A college degree increases job prospects, we assume, so we’re more anxious about getting them into college, preferably a “good” one. Colleges have more applicants now & are more competitive, so that compounds our fear and makes high school seem more important. To do well in high school, we assume they need a “rigorous” K-8 experience–which in many minds includes loads of HW. The fear trickles down from 8th to 7th to 6th…and finally kindergarten and, of course, preschool and even toddlerhood! Well-intentioned, overachiever teachers at each grade level “prepare for the next grade” by acting like kids are already in it. The teachers who know better are viewed as oddballs or slackers. And as parents, we’ve let fear and anxiety cloud our critical thinking skills.

    I’m an anxious person by nature, so extricating myself from this series of assumptions has been extremely difficult.

    I am not clued in enough about lower-income districts to know if the same anxiety-trickle-down is there, too. There are so many other fears in those areas, like basic safety. Probably this is a middle- to upper-income thing. But again, to borrow your language, do we want to raise a generation of neurotic silver-spooners who can’t think? You’d think the Wall St. fiascos would warn us off that.


  7. Having read the article, I have the same response I’ve had to similar articles in the past. I’m tired of everybody blaming parents for the horrific state of the schools.

    I’ve been a parent in the public schools, and I can tell you that nobody listened to a word I said there (until I said, “I’m applying to private schools”.) I really don’t believe that the schools are stressing out our kids because that’s what the parents want. The schools do what they do, and parents either fall in line or don’t.

    And the reporter didn’t even talk to the parents — she talked to preschool directors! OK, I’m off to post a comment at their site —


  8. FedUpMom and Mary Sullivan- well stated. I agree that some teachers are well-intentioned overachievers. I believe I posted on a different thread about my daugter’s third grade teacher asking her if I was doing her homework and then lecturing her about it (without coming to me first). I think many teachers have gone from well-intentioned to manipulaitve and unethical without even undersanding that they have crossed a line. Very frightening when our state run schools pit eight year olds againt their mothers and then moralize and rationalize it away.


  9. Disillusioned–yes, we have some horror stories like that, too. One just came to light last night at dinner–ugh. We also have some wonderful teachers. As with parents, there’s a mix. The question is how do we “leverage” the good ones–parents and teachers–and encourage them to work together for change? I’m not sure it can be done any other way.


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