Homework or Busywork?

Stress. Anxiety. Exhaustion. Do the pros outweigh the cons?

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Any student of North Allegheny knows that the importance of academics and scholarly pursuits are emphasized constantly; everyone strives to do their very best in every aspect of school, whether it be projects, exams, standardized tests, or homework. However, many think that teachers pile unnecessary loads of homework on students whose plates are already full, which causes increased stress. This begs the question: is homework even worth it?

Of course, many aspects affect the workload a student gets throughout the year. Sports, extracurricular activities, subjects, teachers, and level of classes, to name a few, play large parts in the amount of work assigned to students. With that being said, this piece is not meant to target any sort of person; it will discuss views on homework that have formed due to observations and personal experiences of students and myself. In no way is this article meant to demean or degrade any person or their educational methods.

As of today, experts still cannot agree on the best way to approach the controversial topics of homework: how much is too much? Should students be dedicating hours each night on homework alone? What type of work benefits students the most? Countless studies have been done on students and the effect of homework on overall grades, but so many things factor into this discussion that no one has a definite answer. However, many experts, including those in the National PTA and the National Education Association, can agree upon the “10-minute rule” as a standard for schools to follow. This method recommends ten minutes of homework per grade level. For example, third-graders should get thirty minutes of work per night, sixth-graders get one hour, and so on. To apply this rule to high schoolers, it would mean seniors, for instance, would get a maximum of two hours of homework each night. This rule is typically not adhered to by teachers since they do not coordinate and set a limit to how much work each of them will give per night. For example, if a senior has five core classes, and they each give homework, each teacher could only assign up to 24 minutes of work for the night in order to meet the 120-minute maximum. Even if the teachers meet the limit, other factors can account for additional time, such as electives, AP courses, and labs, among other things.

Students and teachers can agree that some types of homework are beneficial in several ways. Vocabulary practice can help solidify the understanding of words and concepts, studying topics prepare students for tests, and completing math problems allow them to better grasp the concept.

Assistant Superintendent David Christopher said: “Good homework that is relevant, something that you can do on your own and practice potentially has a lot of benefits…It’s not homework just to complete an assignment or to just get a grade; it has to be work that is improving something that you are learning.”
Assigning homework can also improve a student’s time management skills and responsibility, according to many experts. All of these things do end up improving students’ test scores and final grades. At a certain point, however, an overload of work can do much more harm than good to students. In a way, a student can view some assignments as busy work that has no real benefit to them.

If you have some relevant work to do, that seems to be what has been shown to have a positive impact on student achievement and not have a negative impact on student mental health”

— Assistant Superintendent David Christopher


Well, what does busy work mean? This can mean very different things to students, as each person perceives school and work in varying ways. Sophomore Anna Ceccarelli defines it as “time-consuming homework that neither corresponds with what we are learning nor reinforces the things we were taught in class.” Another sophomore, Réka Götz, says: “Busy work is a review of concepts that you already understand, making it redundant, and therefore useless to you.” I believe busy work can be seen as meaningless work that does not relate back to the concepts learned in class or has insignificant academic value to the student. If it has no benefit, what is the point of assigning it to students who are already stressed?

All throughout the week, students can attest to the fact that they are constantly busy in the hours after school. This is especially notable in athletes and musicians. Student-athletes feel an immense amount of pressure to succeed both in school and within their sport. North Allegheny pushes students to participate in sports throughout the entire year, and this means that the participants will typically practice daily. It is safe to say that large commitments such as sports and music take hours out of the day that could have been spent finishing homework.

Clubs and volunteer work also take up time in a student’s day. Many sign up for activities such as Key Club or Speech and Debate to socialize or to get experience that stands out on college applications. Colleges do not strictly look at GPA or grades; almost all like to see extracurricular endeavors to show that the applicant is well-rounded and skilled in areas other than academics. If one is always at home doing hours of homework, how will they find the time to participate in such useful ventures? Or on the contrary, if a student signs up for clubs and sports, will they still be able to accomplish their schoolwork on time?

With the abundance of homework given and the plethora of after-school activities sponsored and encouraged by the school, many students simply do not have enough time in their day to complete every assignment in a timely manner. Students come into school with tired eyes, complaining of lack of sleep, and almost all of them seem to blame this on the immense amount of homework assigned to them each night. Some teens are forced to make a decision: complete their work and sacrifice precious sleep, or get enough rest but still have unfinished work haunting them in the morning. Frankly, it’s not a healthy dynamic for a growing teen, and many blame the piles of schoolwork for the physical and mental toll.

In an effort to save time and finish on higher priority work, some students will resort to copying other people’s papers. While the assignment may be completed, the student really did not learn anything, thus the homework had no value. If teachers decide to minimize the workload but increase the quality of the work they give, then copying will likely reduce. The students will have more time to independently finish the work they were assigned without having to resort to copying other work. Since students get essentially zero benefits from this, why even assign it?

Of course, as previously mentioned, every student is drastically different. Some enjoy being in clubs, others thrive in sports or music; some choose to enroll in Academic classes, while others feel that Honors or AP are the better fit for them; some decide that they want to take on every activity available to them, and others may determine that only a few extracurriculars will benefit them. To paraphrase Assistant Superintendent David Christopher, scheduling is extremely important; knowing how much time they have is crucial to students because they will have homework, no matter how useless it could be, and good time management is absolutely necessary in order to succeed throughout high school.

It is an indisputable fact the homework is a definite stressor for high school students since they are expected to juggle sports, music, schoolwork, and jobs while still being social and having fun, as a teenager should, as well as getting enough rest for growing bodies and minds. While homework can be necessary in most cases to solidify a concept and assist the student in comprehending the given material, too much of a good thing can always be detrimental. Before completing your next page of homework, think to yourself, “What benefit does this have to me?” Since we have so much to do in so little time, it seems to be time to take a hard look at the assignments we are given and decide if they are worth stressing over.

*Interviews are edited for clarity and/or length