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Nix Homework to Help Students? What the Science Says

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But too much homework in second grade or assignments that are too hard can have a negative impact on young learners, Cooper said. Some parents who are extremely concerned about ensuring that their children achieve to their maximal ability may put pressure on educators, and this has led some teachers to assign students too much homework, especially at the high-school level, Cooper said. But the key is for students to get the right amount of homework — not too much of it and not too little — so that it can have positive effects on learning and school performance, Cooper said.

But other educators are steadfast that the right amount of homework in elementary school may be little to none. Research suggests that homework in elementary school does not have a positive effect on student achievement, and could even have a negative impact, said Etta Kralovec, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Arizona South, and the author of "The End of Homework" Beacon Press, The findings are more complex in middle- and high-school students, with many studies finding a correlation between classroom grades and homework, Kralovec said.

But these results could also raise additional questions, because tracking students — separating them into lower-level and advanced-level classes, for example — also begins at these grades, and kids in the higher-track classes are often assigned more homework.

It may not be that homework actually causes students to get better grades in high school or middle school, it could be that students who do more homework were better students to begin with, Kralovec said. Despite the research, the amount of time students spend doing homework remains a highly contentious topic in education, Kralovec told Live Science.

Family life today is really challenging compared with decades past — with more working mothers and some parents working two or three jobs to make ends meet — and homework can add yet another stressor to the mix, Kralovec said. If parents feel that the amount of homework students receive is too much and may be encroaching on family time, one strategy they may try is to get organized with other parents, Kralovec suggested.

Each school district may set its own policies about the amount of homework given to students. When parents have banded together in their communities, they have often been successful at having public discussions with administrators and teachers, and even moving assignment levels back to healthier levels, she said.

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