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Homework Unburdened

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Despite rumblings about a growing homework burden on today’s students, most parents and teachers feel that the amount of homework kids get is on target, according to a new poll sponsored by AP-AOL Learning Services.

Based on responses from 1,085 parents and 810 teachers, the poll found that 57 percent of parents and 63 percent of teachers felt that the amount of homework expected of children is “about right,” according to the Associated Press. Only 19 percent of parents and 12 percent of teachers said students were given too much homework.

While parents and teachers agreed about the amount of homework given, they had curiously different opinions on whether students are getting enough help at home. Fifty-seven percent of parents responded that the amount of time they spend helping their child with homework is about right. But a whopping 87 percent of teachers said that parents don’t spend enough time helping their children with homework, according to the AP.

Math was cited by both parents and teachers as the subject children need the most help with at home.

The AP-AOL poll echoes a 2003 research analysis by the Brookings Institution, which found that, despite dramatic news stories about homework overload, the typical student did less than an hour of homework per day and that overall homework levels hadn’t increased since the 1980s. (The one exception, which the researchers attributed to an increased emphasis on reading, was for children ages 6 to 8.) The report also cited data showing that most parents were satisfied with the amount of homework their kids got, adding that anxieties about homework burdens were created by progressive educators who believe children’s development “unfolds through play and self-guided exploration” instead of work.

In a response to the Brookings Institution study published in Education Week, John Buell and Etta Kralovec, authors of the 2000 book "The End of Homework," suggested that survey data on parental attitudes towards homework failed to tell the whole story and questioned the real educational value of homework. Buell and Kralovec suggested that school time be better structured to give students more time for independent work, pointing to studies showing a link between academic success and quality leisure time outside of school.

"Work as a solution to all our woes is reform on the cheap and at the expense of all," they argued.

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