homework

Too much homework: Is it reality or a myth?

March 18, 2014 at 3:15 PM ET

Video: Despite complaints about overworked kids, a new study reveals that students probably do less homework than you think: Their workload has remained stable over the last 30 years.

How long do your kids spend each night hitting the books? If they are complaining about being buried by a growing mountain of homework, not so fast.

A report from the Brookings Institution released Tuesday suggests that despite stories about stressed out kids having too much homework, the amount has not changed much in 30 years and rarely tops more than two hours a night.

"It still doesn't look like kids are overworked," researcher Tom Loveless, a former math teacher who conducted the study, told USA Today. "The percentage who are overworked is really small."

The TODAY anchors weighed in Tuesday, with Matt Lauer and Carson Daly saying they don’t quite remember being overburdened.

“I don’t remember doing two hours of homework a night,” Lauer said. “Me neither,” Daly added.

Natalie Morales said she thinks homework loads vary by school, and added, “I think nowadays, kids are on their devices.”

In the report,“Homework In America, Loveless analyzed several previous surveys, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Kids ages 9, 13 and 17 were asked how much time they spent on homework a day earlier.

For the 17-year-olds, the percentage of kids doing the most homework — more than two hours a night — stayed the same at 13 percent from 1984 to 2012. The percentage spending one to two hours a night dropped from 27 percent to 23 percent in that time period and the kids who did less than an hour — 26 percent — was the same as well.

The percentage of 13-year-olds with the heaviest workload, more than two hours, dropped from 9 percent to 7 percent in 2012, and those spending one to two hours on homework also went down.

TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie said she thought it was the younger kids who have been getting more homework lately. “Isn’t the complaint that it’s the little kids, the little ones in elementary school who have homework until 10 at night?

The Brookings report concluded that “the homework load has remained remarkably stable since 1984,” with one exception: 9-year-olds.

The percentage of 9-year-olds with no homework fell from 35 percent in 1984 to 22 percent in 2012, while the percentage of those doing less than an hour rose from 41 percent o 57 percent in the same time period.

Lauer said his elementary school-aged kids spend 45 minutes to an hour on homework.

Another survey, by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that the percentage of college freshmen who recalled having at least six hours a week of homework during their last year of high school dropped from 50 percent in 1986 to 38 percent in 2012, USA Today said.

The Brookings report comes as some parents have complained about their kids being stressed out from too much homework. Some district are considering time limits on homework or making homework optional.

The report noted that major magazines ran cover stories on the evils of homework from 1998 until 2003. More recently, it noted a 2011 front-page New York Times story about thenightly homework grind stressing out kids and an article in The Atlantic in September headlined “My Daughter’s Homework Is Killing Me,” that describes a man doing his daughter’s homework every night for a week.

The Brookings report says most parents think their kids are getting the right amount of homework, and that “homework horror stories” need proper perspective.

“They seem to originate from the very personal discontents of a small group of parents,” the report said. “They do not reflect the experience of the average family with a school-age child.”

Mike Petrilli of the education think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute said the amount of homework varies for different kinds of students. Those hoping to attend elite colleges "probably are doing too much homework and are stressed out about it," he told USA Today.

But the rest of the students, he said, "are not being pushed to do a lot of homework at all."

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