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What’s the Right Amount of Homework?

Decades of research show that homework has some benefits, especially for students in middle and high school—but there are risks to assigning too much.

Many teachers and parents believe that homework helps students build study skills and review concepts learned in class. Others see homework as disruptive and unnecessary, leading to burnout and turning kids off to school. Decades of research show that the issue is more nuanced and complex than most people think: Homework is beneficial, but only to a degree. Students in high school gain the most, while younger kids benefit much less.

The National PTA and the National Education Association support the “ 10-minute homework guideline ”—a nightly 10 minutes of homework per grade level. But many teachers and parents are quick to point out that what matters is the quality of the homework assigned and how well it meets students’ needs, not the amount of time spent on it.

The guideline doesn’t account for students who may need to spend more—or less—time on assignments. In class, teachers can make adjustments to support struggling students, but at home, an assignment that takes one student 30 minutes to complete may take another twice as much time—often for reasons beyond their control. And homework can widen the achievement gap, putting students from low-income households and students with learning disabilities at a disadvantage.

However, the 10-minute guideline is useful in setting a limit: When kids spend too much time on homework, there are real consequences to consider.

Small Benefits for Elementary Students

As young children begin school, the focus should be on cultivating a love of learning, and assigning too much homework can undermine that goal. And young students often don’t have the study skills to benefit fully from homework, so it may be a poor use of time (Cooper, 1989 ; Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). A more effective activity may be nightly reading, especially if parents are involved. The benefits of reading are clear: If students aren’t proficient readers by the end of third grade, they’re less likely to succeed academically and graduate from high school (Fiester, 2013 ).

For second-grade teacher Jacqueline Fiorentino, the minor benefits of homework did not outweigh the potential drawback of turning young children against school at an early age, so she experimented with dropping mandatory homework. “Something surprising happened: They started doing more work at home,” Fiorentino writes . “This inspiring group of 8-year-olds used their newfound free time to explore subjects and topics of interest to them.” She encouraged her students to read at home and offered optional homework to extend classroom lessons and help them review material.

Moderate Benefits for Middle School Students

As students mature and develop the study skills necessary to delve deeply into a topic—and to retain what they learn—they also benefit more from homework. Nightly assignments can help prepare them for scholarly work, and research shows that homework can have moderate benefits for middle school students (Cooper et al., 2006 ). Recent research also shows that online math homework, which can be designed to adapt to students’ levels of understanding, can significantly boost test scores (Roschelle et al., 2016 ).

There are risks to assigning too much, however: A 2015 study found that when middle school students were assigned more than 90 to 100 minutes of daily homework, their math and science test scores began to decline (Fernández-Alonso, Suárez-Álvarez, & Muñiz, 2015 ). Crossing that upper limit can drain student motivation and focus. The researchers recommend that “homework should present a certain level of challenge or difficulty, without being so challenging that it discourages effort.” Teachers should avoid low-effort, repetitive assignments, and assign homework “with the aim of instilling work habits and promoting autonomous, self-directed learning.”

In other words, it’s the quality of homework that matters, not the quantity. Brian Sztabnik, a veteran middle and high school English teacher, suggests that teachers take a step back and ask themselves these five questions :

  • How long will it take to complete?
  • Have all learners been considered?
  • Will an assignment encourage future success?
  • Will an assignment place material in a context the classroom cannot?
  • Does an assignment offer support when a teacher is not there?

More Benefits for High School Students, but Risks as Well

By the time they reach high school, students should be well on their way to becoming independent learners, so homework does provide a boost to learning at this age, as long as it isn’t overwhelming (Cooper et al., 2006 ; Marzano & Pickering, 2007 ). When students spend too much time on homework—more than two hours each night—it takes up valuable time to rest and spend time with family and friends. A 2013 study found that high school students can experience serious mental and physical health problems, from higher stress levels to sleep deprivation, when assigned too much homework (Galloway, Conner, & Pope, 2013 ).

Homework in high school should always relate to the lesson and be doable without any assistance, and feedback should be clear and explicit.

Teachers should also keep in mind that not all students have equal opportunities to finish their homework at home, so incomplete homework may not be a true reflection of their learning—it may be more a result of issues they face outside of school. They may be hindered by issues such as lack of a quiet space at home, resources such as a computer or broadband connectivity, or parental support (OECD, 2014 ). In such cases, giving low homework scores may be unfair.

Since the quantities of time discussed here are totals, teachers in middle and high school should be aware of how much homework other teachers are assigning. It may seem reasonable to assign 30 minutes of daily homework, but across six subjects, that’s three hours—far above a reasonable amount even for a high school senior. Psychologist Maurice Elias sees this as a common mistake: Individual teachers create homework policies that in aggregate can overwhelm students. He suggests that teachers work together to develop a school-wide homework policy and make it a key topic of back-to-school night and the first parent-teacher conferences of the school year.

Parents Play a Key Role

Homework can be a powerful tool to help parents become more involved in their child’s learning (Walker et al., 2004 ). It can provide insights into a child’s strengths and interests, and can also encourage conversations about a child’s life at school. If a parent has positive attitudes toward homework, their children are more likely to share those same values, promoting academic success.

But it’s also possible for parents to be overbearing, putting too much emphasis on test scores or grades, which can be disruptive for children (Madjar, Shklar, & Moshe, 2015 ). Parents should avoid being overly intrusive or controlling—students report feeling less motivated to learn when they don’t have enough space and autonomy to do their homework (Orkin, May, & Wolf, 2017 ; Patall, Cooper, & Robinson, 2008 ; Silinskas & Kikas, 2017 ). So while homework can encourage parents to be more involved with their kids, it’s important to not make it a source of conflict.

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  • Homework Guidelines

Homework refers to assignments that students are expected to complete outside of the class period. This does not include long-term projects or assignments. This includes reading assignments, problem sets, papers, or studying for tests, quizzes, and other assessments.

The Howard County Public School System supports students in maintaining and extending their learning. The appropriate design, use, and evaluation of homework assignments, used to inform progress and provide opportunities for independent practice, are part of achieving that goal. Some courses or instructors may choose not to assign homework.

Features of Homework

  • Purposeful: Students understand why they are completing homework. Homework is grounded in and expands upon skills and knowledge students have learned in the classroom.
  • Appropriate: Homework should be designed so that all students can experience success in independent completion of assignments. Accommodations will be provided as outlined in students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans.
  • Informational: Homework is one tool schools have available to them that allows parents to be included in their child’s day-to-day school experiences.
  • Flexible: Assignments can be successfully completed with resources that are readily available within timeframes that have flexible deadlines when possible.

Homework will incorporate the following criteria:

  • Each school year, schools will communicate the school’s homework procedures with all stakeholders.
  • Students, parents, and teachers should communicate about scheduled and actual homework completion times to ensure realistic expectations for the completion of assignments.
  • Homework will be planned so students see the relationship of their homework to intended learning targets, see meaning in their assignments, have a clear understanding of the procedures and due dates, understand how their homework is evaluated, and understand how they can use feedback on homework to improve understanding. Teaching staff will ensure that students understand the purpose of assignments and how they connect to classroom learning.
  • Teachers are legally required to ensure that homework is accommodated/modified as necessary in accordance with students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans. Classwork and homework accommodations must be provided per students’ IEPs and Section 504 Plans. Students should not be penalized for failure to complete classwork or homework when accommodations are not provided. Universal Design for Learning (UDL) best practices should be used when assigning homework.
  • Teachers will provide feedback on homework assignments.
  • Students may have more than one teacher. Therefore, teams of teachers will discuss homework activities and projects in order to follow grade level homework duration guidelines. Canvas tools will be made available as one option to help teachers coordinate major projects and exams. Teachers will be understanding of student circumstances and should tailor homework assignments with flexible due dates when possible so that students can complete homework tasks throughout the week based on their individual schedules.
  • Students must be given a non-electronic option for homework completion and submission. Assignments cannot be due beyond regular school hours or be required to be submitted electronically. While electronic submission can be utilized it cannot be required.
  • Homework assignments may not be assigned or due on a day schools are closed due to inclement weather or unplanned closures.
  • Homework may not be assigned over the summer for any courses, nor winter or spring breaks for middle or high school courses.
  • A student may make up and receive a recorded grade for homework not completed due to the observance of a religious holiday. Students returning from a religious holiday observance will have an equal number of school days to complete make-up work.
  • Reading lists and additional resources will be available during the breaks, as well as throughout the school year, as a service to students who want an opportunity to improve reading and mathematics skills. Families will be provided with access to resources to supplement reading and mathematics instruction for students.

Grades Pre-K – 2

  • Amount of Homework: No more than 20 minutes of homework per night will be assigned. In Pre-K and Kindergarten there will be no assignments that must be submitted to the teacher.
  • Purpose of Homework: Homework provides practice opportunities for skill development.
  • Families are encouraged to read to or with their children nightly.
  • Families are encouraged to practice grade appropriate math facts or related activities on a nightly basis.
  • Teaching staff will be provided with opportunities to meet as teams to schedule assignments so that students do not regularly have more than 20 minutes of homework each night

Grades 3 – 5

  • Amount of Homework: No more than 30 minutes required per night in grade 3; 40 minutes in grade 4; and 50 minutes in grade 5.
  • Purpose of Homework: Homework reflects daily instruction, reinforces previously taught skills, prepares students for future lessons, and/or promotes creativity.
  • Teaching staff will be provided with opportunities to meet as teams to schedule assignments so that students do not regularly have more than 30 minutes of homework required per night in grade 3; 40 minutes in grade 4; and 50 minutes in grade.

Grades 6 – 8

  • Amount of Homework: For the purposes of determining number of hours of homework per week or day, teachers should include reading of course material, studying of course material, and practicing skills taught in course (e.g., rehearsing a musical instrument). Time spent on long-term projects should also be included when determining number of hours of homework; however, these projects do not constitute homework for grading purposes. Each instructor may assign an average of, at most, one hour of homework per week. Not all classes will require homework. Some classes might require students to spend more or less time on homework than is typical.
  • Purpose of Homework: Homework assignments will reinforce curriculum through tasks that contribute to learning and understanding. These may reinforce previously taught skills, prepare students for future lessons, extend learning, promote creativity, and/or be a reflection on the student’s day at school.
  • Teaching staff will be provided with opportunities to meet as teams to schedule assignments so that students do not regularly have more than one hour of homework each week per instructor. It is recommended that the school principal or designee work with teaching staff to facilitate this collaboration.

Grades 9 – 12

  • Amount of Homework: For the purposes of determining number of hours of homework per week or day, teachers should include reading of course material, studying of course material, and practicing skills taught in course (e.g., rehearsing a musical instrument). Time spent on long-term projects should also be included when determining number of hours of homework; however, these projects do not constitute homework for grading purposes. Each instructor may assign an average of, at most, one and a half hours of homework per week. Not all classes will require homework. Some classes might require students to spend more or less time on homework than is typical.
  • An upper limit of seven to fourteen hours of homework a week is suggested for each high school student. Some classes might require students to spend more or less time on homework than is typical.
  • Expectations of Homework: The goals and expectations for homework will be clear and include opportunities for student input. As appropriate, flexibility and student choice will be considered in the assignment of homework duration, rigor, product, and weight in grading. A syllabus is recommended for distribution at the beginning of every semester outlining each course’s requirements, including regular assignments, projects, possible due dates, and procedures for requesting feedback on assignments.
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Neag School of Education

How to use homework to support student success.

  • by: Sandra Chafouleas
  • January 13, 2022
  • Community Engagement

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Editor’s Note: Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Sandra Chafouleas shares insights on supporting students’ homework during the pandemic in the following piece, which originally appeared  in Psychology Today , where she publishes a blog.

COVID has brought many changes in education. What does it mean for homework?

School assignments that a student is expected to do outside of the regular school day—that’s homework. The general guideline is 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level beginning after kindergarten. This amounts to just a few minutes for younger elementary students to up to 2 hours for high school students.

The guidance seems straightforward enough, so why is homework such a controversial topic? School disruptions, including extended periods of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, have magnified the controversies yet also have provided an opportunity to rethink the purpose and value of homework.

Debates about the value of homework center around two primary issues: amount and inequity.

First, the amount of assigned homework may be much more than the recommended guidelines. Families report their children are stressed out over the time spent doing homework. Too much homework can challenge well-being given the restricted time available for sleep, exercise, and social connection. In a 2015 study , for example, parents reported their early elementary children received almost three times the recommended guidelines. In high school, researchers found an average of three hours of homework per night for students living in economically privileged communities.

“ Debates about the value of homework center around two primary issues: amount and inequity.”

Second, homework can perpetuate inequities. Students attending school in less economically privileged communities may receive little to no homework, or have difficulty completing it due to limited access to needed technology. This can translate into fewer opportunities to learn and may contribute to gaps in achievement.

There isn’t a ton of research on the effects of homework, and available studies certainly do not provide a simple answer. For example, a 2006 synthesis of studies suggested a positive influence between homework completion and academic achievement for middle and high school students. Supporters also point out that homework offers additional opportunities to engage in learning and that it can foster independent learning habits such as planning and a sense of responsibility. A more recent study involving 13-year-old students in Spain found higher test scores for those who were regularly assigned homework in math and science, with an optimal time around one hour—which is roughly aligned with recommendations. However, the researchers noted that ability to independently do the work, student effort, and prior achievement were more important contributors than time spent.

Opponents of homework maintain that the academic benefit does not outweigh the toll on well-being. Researchers have observed student stress, physical health problems, and lack of life balance, especially when the time spent goes over the recommended guidelines. In a survey of adolescents , over half reported the amount and type of homework they received to be a primary source of stress in their lives. In addition, vast differences exist in access and availability of supports, such as internet connection, adult assistance, or even a place to call home, as 1.5 million children experience homelessness in the United States

The COVID-19 pandemic has re-energized discussion about homework practices, with the goal to advance recommendations about how, when, and with whom it can be best used. Here’s a summary of key strategies:

Strategies for Educators

Make sure the tasks are meaningful and matched..

First, the motto “ quality over quantity ” can guide decisions about homework. Homework is not busy-work, and instead should get students excited about learning. Emphasize activities that facilitate choice and interest to extend learning, like choose your own reading adventure or math games. Second, each student should be able to complete homework independently with success. Think about Goldilocks: To be effective, assignments should be just right for each learner. One example of how do this efficiently is through online learning platforms that can efficiently adjust to skill level and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

Ensure access to resources for task completion.

One step toward equity is to ensure access to necessary resources such as time, space, and materials. Teach students about preparing for homework success, allocating classroom time to model and practice good study habits such as setting up their physical environment, time management, and chunking tasks. Engage in conversations with students and families to problem-solve challenges When needed, connect students with homework supports available through after-school clubs, other community supports, or even within a dedicated block during the school day.

Be open to revisiting homework policies and practices.

The days of penalizing students for not completing homework should be long gone. Homework is a tool for practicing content and learning self-management. With that in mind, provide opportunities for students to communicate needs, and respond by revising assignments or allowing them to turn in on alternative dates. Engage in adult professional learning about high-quality homework , from value (Should I assign this task?) to evaluation (How should this be graded? Did that homework assignment result in expected outcomes?). Monitor how things are going by looking at completion rates and by asking students for their feedback. Be willing to adapt the homework schedule or expectations based on what is learned.

Strategies for Families

Understand how to be a good helper..

When designed appropriately, students should be able to complete homework with independence. Limit homework wars by working to be a good helper. Hovering, micromanaging, or doing homework for them may be easiest in the moment but does not help build their independence. Be a good helper by asking guiding questions, providing hints, or checking for understanding. Focus your assistance on setting up structures for homework success, like space and time.

Use homework as a tool for communication.

Use homework as a vehicle to foster family-school communication. Families can use homework as an opportunity to open conversations about specific assignments or classes, peer relationships, or even sleep quality that may be impacting student success. For younger students, using a daily or weekly home-school notebook or planner can be one way to share information. For older students, help them practice communicating their needs and provide support as needed.

Make sure to balance wellness.

Like adults, children need a healthy work-life balance. Positive social connection and engagement in pleasurable activities are important core principles to foster well-being . Monitor the load of homework and other structured activities to make sure there is time in the daily routine for play. Play can mean different things to different children: getting outside, reading for pleasure, and yes, even gaming. Just try to ensure that activities include a mix of health-focused activities such as physical movement or mindfulness downtime.


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Creating a Homework Policy With Meaning and Purpose

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We have all had time-consuming, monotonous, meaningless homework assigned to us at some point in our life. These assignments often lead to frustration and boredom and students learn virtually nothing from them. Teachers and schools must reevaluate how and why they assign homework to their students. Any assigned homework should have a purpose.

Assigning homework with a purpose means that through completing the assignment, the student will be able to obtain new knowledge, a new skill, or have a new experience that they may not otherwise have. Homework should not consist of a rudimentary task that is being assigned simply for the sake of assigning something. Homework should be meaningful. It should be viewed as an opportunity to allow students to make real-life connections to the content that they are learning in the classroom. It should be given only as an opportunity to help increase their content knowledge in an area.

Differentiate Learning for All Students

Furthermore, teachers can utilize homework as an opportunity to differentiate learning for all students. Homework should rarely be given with a blanket "one size fits all" approach. Homework provides teachers with a significant opportunity to meet each student where they are and truly extend learning. A teacher can give their higher-level students more challenging assignments while also filling gaps for those students who may have fallen behind. Teachers who use homework as an opportunity to differentiate we not only see increased growth in their students, but they will also find they have more time in class to dedicate to whole group instruction .

See Student Participation Increase

Creating authentic and differentiated homework assignments can take more time for teachers to put together. As often is the case, extra effort is rewarded. Teachers who assign meaningful, differentiated, connected homework assignments not only see student participation increase, they also see an increase in student engagement. These rewards are worth the extra investment in time needed to construct these types of assignments.

Schools must recognize the value in this approach. They should provide their teachers with professional development that gives them the tools to be successful in transitioning to assign homework that is differentiated with meaning and purpose. A school's homework policy should reflect this philosophy; ultimately guiding teachers to give their students reasonable, meaningful, purposeful homework assignments.

Sample School Homework Policy

Homework is defined as the time students spend outside the classroom in assigned learning activities. Anywhere Schools believes the purpose of homework should be to practice, reinforce, or apply acquired skills and knowledge. We also believe as research supports that moderate assignments completed and done well are more effective than lengthy or difficult ones done poorly.

Homework serves to develop regular study skills and the ability to complete assignments independently. Anywhere Schools further believes completing homework is the responsibility of the student, and as students mature they are more able to work independently. Therefore, parents play a supportive role in monitoring completion of assignments, encouraging students’ efforts and providing a conducive environment for learning.

Individualized Instruction

Homework is an opportunity for teachers to provide individualized instruction geared specifically to an individual student. Anywhere Schools embraces the idea that each student is different and as such, each student has their own individual needs. We see homework as an opportunity to tailor lessons specifically for an individual student meeting them where they are and bringing them to where we want them to be. 

Homework contributes toward building responsibility, self-discipline, and lifelong learning habits. It is the intention of the Anywhere School staff to assign relevant, challenging, meaningful, and purposeful homework assignments that reinforce classroom learning objectives. Homework should provide students with the opportunity to apply and extend the information they have learned complete unfinished class assignments, and develop independence.

The actual time required to complete assignments will vary with each student’s study habits, academic skills, and selected course load. If your child is spending an inordinate amount of time doing homework, you should contact your child’s teachers.

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Should Kids Get Homework?

Homework gives elementary students a way to practice concepts, but too much can be harmful, experts say.

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Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful.

How much homework students should get has long been a source of debate among parents and educators. In recent years, some districts have even implemented no-homework policies, as students juggle sports, music and other activities after school.

Parents of elementary school students, in particular, have argued that after-school hours should be spent with family or playing outside rather than completing assignments. And there is little research to show that homework improves academic achievement for elementary students.

But some experts say there's value in homework, even for younger students. When done well, it can help students practice core concepts and develop study habits and time management skills. The key to effective homework, they say, is keeping assignments related to classroom learning, and tailoring the amount by age: Many experts suggest no homework for kindergartners, and little to none in first and second grade.

Value of Homework

Homework provides a chance to solidify what is being taught in the classroom that day, week or unit. Practice matters, says Janine Bempechat, clinical professor at Boston University 's Wheelock College of Education & Human Development.

"There really is no other domain of human ability where anybody would say you don't need to practice," she adds. "We have children practicing piano and we have children going to sports practice several days a week after school. You name the domain of ability and practice is in there."

Homework is also the place where schools and families most frequently intersect.

"The children are bringing things from the school into the home," says Paula S. Fass, professor emerita of history at the University of California—Berkeley and the author of "The End of American Childhood." "Before the pandemic, (homework) was the only real sense that parents had to what was going on in schools."

Harris Cooper, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," examined more than 60 research studies on homework between 1987 and 2003 and found that — when designed properly — homework can lead to greater student success. Too much, however, is harmful. And homework has a greater positive effect on students in secondary school (grades 7-12) than those in elementary.

"Every child should be doing homework, but the amount and type that they're doing should be appropriate for their developmental level," he says. "For teachers, it's a balancing act. Doing away with homework completely is not in the best interest of children and families. But overburdening families with homework is also not in the child's or a family's best interest."

Negative Homework Assignments

Not all homework for elementary students involves completing a worksheet. Assignments can be fun, says Cooper, like having students visit educational locations, keep statistics on their favorite sports teams, read for pleasure or even help their parents grocery shop. The point is to show students that activities done outside of school can relate to subjects learned in the classroom.

But assignments that are just busy work, that force students to learn new concepts at home, or that are overly time-consuming can be counterproductive, experts say.

Homework that's just busy work.

Effective homework reinforces math, reading, writing or spelling skills, but in a way that's meaningful, experts say. Assignments that look more like busy work – projects or worksheets that don't require teacher feedback and aren't related to topics learned in the classroom – can be frustrating for students and create burdens for families.

"The mental health piece has definitely played a role here over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the last thing we want to do is frustrate students with busy work or homework that makes no sense," says Dave Steckler, principal of Red Trail Elementary School in Mandan, North Dakota.

Homework on material that kids haven't learned yet.

With the pressure to cover all topics on standardized tests and limited time during the school day, some teachers assign homework that has not yet been taught in the classroom.

Not only does this create stress, but it also causes equity challenges. Some parents speak languages other than English or work several jobs, and they aren't able to help teach their children new concepts.

" It just becomes agony for both parents and the kids to get through this worksheet, and the goal becomes getting to the bottom of (the) worksheet with answers filled in without any understanding of what any of it matters for," says professor Susan R. Goldman, co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois—Chicago .

Homework that's overly time-consuming.

The standard homework guideline recommended by the National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association is the "10-minute rule" – 10 minutes of nightly homework per grade level. A fourth grader, for instance, would receive a total of 40 minutes of homework per night.

But this does not always happen, especially since not every student learns the same. A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy found that primary school children actually received three times the recommended amount of homework — and that family stress increased along with the homework load.

Young children can only remain attentive for short periods, so large amounts of homework, especially lengthy projects, can negatively affect students' views on school. Some individual long-term projects – like having to build a replica city, for example – typically become an assignment for parents rather than students, Fass says.

"It's one thing to assign a project like that in which several kids are working on it together," she adds. "In (that) case, the kids do normally work on it. It's another to send it home to the families, where it becomes a burden and doesn't really accomplish very much."

Private vs. Public Schools

Do private schools assign more homework than public schools? There's little research on the issue, but experts say private school parents may be more accepting of homework, seeing it as a sign of academic rigor.

Of course, not all private schools are the same – some focus on college preparation and traditional academics, while others stress alternative approaches to education.

"I think in the academically oriented private schools, there's more support for homework from parents," says Gerald K. LeTendre, chair of educational administration at Pennsylvania State University—University Park . "I don't know if there's any research to show there's more homework, but it's less of a contentious issue."

How to Address Homework Overload

First, assess if the workload takes as long as it appears. Sometimes children may start working on a homework assignment, wander away and come back later, Cooper says.

"Parents don't see it, but they know that their child has started doing their homework four hours ago and still not done it," he adds. "They don't see that there are those four hours where their child was doing lots of other things. So the homework assignment itself actually is not four hours long. It's the way the child is approaching it."

But if homework is becoming stressful or workload is excessive, experts suggest parents first approach the teacher, followed by a school administrator.

"Many times, we can solve a lot of issues by having conversations," Steckler says, including by "sitting down, talking about the amount of homework, and what's appropriate and not appropriate."

Study Tips for High School Students

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  • Essex Fells School

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The teachers and administration of The Essex Fells School believe that homework is one bridge that connects parents, children, and their teachers.  The overarching goal of homework is to enhance school-based education experiences and promote student growth. Homework is assigned in accordance with the needs and abilities of individual students and in support of specific curricular areas. Homework reinforces and strengthens the home/school connection while reinforcing the skills and concepts learned at school. Through homework, parents learn about the curriculum and can talk to their children in a meaningful way about what they are learning. Homework also teaches children responsibility and good work habits. Homework is designed to be an age-appropriate, successful experience.

Our school strongly promotes the love of books and reading at home. Parental support is key to the success of our reading program. To continue to build a community of learners, it is critical that children spend time reading. Independent reading provides children an opportunity to apply reading strategies independently and sustain reading behavior. It challenges our children to solve words on their own while reading age appropriate texts. Independent reading promotes fluency and builds confidence. It also strengthens children’s vocabulary and writing skills.

Essex Fells teachers assign homework on a regular basis and expect all students to complete assigned work in a timely manner.  Parent excusals will not be accepted for missing assignments unless under extenuating circumstances.

Below, please find general guidelines and time minimums that teachers and parents should follow when assigning homework and reading with their child.

            GRADE LEVEL                    HOMEWORK           READING

Pre-Kindergarten                    10 Minutes  (Pre-reading activities)

Kindergarten                           10 Minutes                   10 Minutes      

Grade One                              15 Minutes                    15 Minutes

Grade Two                              20 Minutes                   20 Minutes

Grade Three                            30-40 Minutes              20 Minutes

Grade Four                              45 Minutes                   30 Minutes

Grade Five                               60 Minutes                   30 Minutes

Grade Six                                 60-75 Minutes             30 Minutes

*    For reading, each teacher will provide an appropriate form of accountability to aid the child in his/her reading experiences.

Homework Roles and Responsibilities

      Administrators will:

·      Implement the provisions of the homework policy guidelines as appropriate to the school and ensure that the school’s policy is published and distributed to all students and parents.

·      Plan for the periodic evaluation of homework polices and guidelines.


                  Teachers will:

·      Identify the degree to which homework affects the determination of a student’s grade.

·      Provide clear, concise directions for homework assignments.

·     Check homework for completeness and mastery of concepts as appropriate to the nature of the assignment.

·      Assess, review, and return homework in a timely manner.

·      Periodically discuss with students and their parents/guardians the student’s academic progress, including performance on homework assignments.

·      Clearly post homework assignments in each room.

·      Notify a parent/guardian if a student fails to complete four homework assignments over the span of a marking period.

Parents/Guardians will:

·      Set a regular time for homework, one that works for your child and family.

·      Act as a facilitator of homework.

·      Select a fairly quiet study area with lots of light and adequate academic supplies.

·      Remove household distractions (e.g., television, phone calls, etc.)

·      Review and discuss teacher comments on the homework with your child.

·      Communicate with the teacher when your child consistently experiences difficulty with homework assignments.

·      Encourage children in doubt about an assignment to seek help from and to ask questions of their teacher.

·      Encourage and support children’s efforts, being available to answer questions, but insisting that children assume personal responsibility for their homework assignments.

      Students will:

·      Take increasing responsibility for regularly completing and returning homework assignments.

·      Accurately record all homework assignments in an assignment pad.

·      Clearly label work with their name, date, and teacher when age- appropriate.

·      Neatly complete assignments.

·      Before leaving class, clarify any doubts about an assignment, when it is due, and how it should be completed.

·      Take home the appropriate materials needed to fully complete the homework assignment.

·      Learn to budget time, especially toward the completion of long-term assignments.

·      Return all work to the teacher by the date requested.

                  ·      Make up work missed during an illness or excused absence in a timely manner.

Homework Procedures During Absence

Students are encouraged to form a buddy system and call his/her buddy to obtain assignments when absent.  

Parents are encouraged to contact our office by 8:30 am to request homework from a child’s teacher when the absence is called in. Please provide ample time so that the teacher can be contacted and the assignments and appropriate materials collected and readied for pickup at 3:05 pm in the main office. 

Children who miss school due to illness or excused absence will be given enough time when they return to class to make up their home and class work.  They will have the same number of days to make up their work as they had missed.

Vacations during school time are discouraged.  If your child misses school due to a vacation, class/homework must be requested from the teachers at lease a week in advance.  All missed work must be returned upon the student's arrival back to school.

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Weston Public Schools

Homework Guidelines

A Homework Committee was established during the 2017-18 school year.  The charge of the committee was to consider the current homework policy and practices as well as collect current data from faculty, students, and families with the goal of proposing an updated policy for school committee consideration that outlines the most effective and beneficial experiences for our students.

The School Committee approved the revised Homework Policy in June 2018.  (Click here for updated Homework Policy .)

During the summer of 2018, faculty and administrators met and created Homework Guidelines, which will be reviewed annually.  (Click here for Homework Guidelines , also below.)

Download (PDF, 160KB)

Dr. Karen Zaleski Superintendent [email protected] Tel: 781-786-5200 Fax: 781-786-5209 89 Wellesley Street Weston, MA 02493

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Homework Guidelines

Page navigation.

Homework Guidelines Homework is an important part of each student's educational program. It provides a means of teaching necessary skills of independent study and learning outside the classroom. It helps to promote good study habits and encourages students to share classroom experiences with parents. Other reasons for homework:

  • To build interest in reading and learning.
  • To increase learning.
  • To establish self-discipline and independent study skills.
  • To encourage parent awareness of student learning.
  • To make up work due to an absence.
  • To provide an opportunity to pursue special interest of ability areas.
  • To complete work started in class.
  • To expand and/or enrich regular class work.

For Students It is important to develop good study habits at school and at home.

  • Be sure you understand the assignment, and ask your teacher if you need help understanding the assignment.
  • Set aside a regular time to do homework.
  • Study in a quiet place.
  • Complete your work and hand it in when it is due.
  • Do your best on each assignment.

For Parents Parents can support a child's interest in lifelong learning by providing an environment at home in which homework is a high priority:

  • Provide a quiet, well-lighted place for the student to do homework.
  • Help the student budget time so that a regular schedule for study is set up. Take an active interest in what the student is doing at school. Ask for an explanation of a particular assignment. Make constructive suggestions, but avoid severe criticism and undue pressure. A positive attitude by parents will encourage the student to do the best work possible.
  • Encourage and guide your child with assigned homework. Under no circumstances should you actually do the work for your child.
  • Regular school attendance is important for your child's continued academic growth.
  • Consult your child's teacher as soon as problems arise.
  • Let your child take full responsibility for doing his/her homework and getting it to school on time, including accepting the consequences of not getting it to school on time.

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Homework Guidelines for Mathematics

Mathematics is a language, and as such it has standards of writing which should be observed. In a writing class, one must respect the rules of grammar and punctuation, one must write in organized paragraphs built with complete sentences, and the final draft must be a neat paper with a title. Similarly, there are certain standards for mathematics assignments.

How should I format my homework?

Write your name and class number clearly at the top of at least the first page, along with the assignment number, the section number(s), or the page number(s). If you are not stapling or paper-clipping the pages together, then put your name (or at least your initials) on all the pages.

Use standard-sized paper (8.5" × 11" for North Americans; A4 for others), with no "fringe" running down the side as a result of the paper’s having been torn out of a spiral notebook. Do not use sticky-notes, scented stationery, or other nonstandard types of paper.

Use standard-weight paper , not onion skin, construction paper, or otherwise abnormally thin or heavy paper.

Attach your pages with a paper clip or staple. Do not fold, tear, spit on, or otherwise "dog-ear" the pages. It is better that the pages be handed in loose (with your name on each sheet) than that the corners be folded or shredded.

Clearly indicate the number of the exercise you are doing. If you accidentally do a problem out of order, or separate one part of the problem from the rest, then include a note to the grader, directing the grader to the missed problem or work.

Write out the original exercise (except in the case of word problems, which are too long).

Do your work in pencil, with mistakes cleanly erased, not crossed or scratched out. If you work in ink, use "white-out" to correct mistakes.

Write legibly (that is, suitably large and suitably dark) ; if the grader can't read your answer, it's wrong.

Write neatly across the page , with each succeeding problem below the preceding one, not off to the right. Do not work in multiple columns down the page (like a newspaper); your page should contain only one column.

Keep work within the margins . If you run out of room at the end of a problem, continue onto the next page; do not try to squeeze lines together at the bottom of the sheet. Do not lap over the margins on the left or right; do not wrap writing around the notebook-paper holes.

Do not squeeze the problems together, with one problem running into the next. Use sufficient space for each problem, with at least one blank line between the end of one problem and the beginning of the next.

Do "scratch work," but do it on scratch paper ; hand in only the "final draft." Show your steps, but any work that is scribbled in the margins belongs on scratch paper, not on your hand-in homework.

Show your work . This means showing your steps, not just copying the question from the assignment, and then the answer from the back of the book. Show everything in between the question and the answer. Use complete English sentences if the meaning of the mathematical sentences is not otherwise clear. For your work to be complete, you need to explain your reasoning and make your computations clear.

For tables and graphs, use a ruler to draw the straight lines , and clearly label the axes, the scale, and the points of interest. Use a consistent scale on the axes, and do a T-chart, unless instructed otherwise. Also, make your table or graph large enough to be clear. If you can fit more than three or four graphs on one side of a sheet of paper, then you're drawing them too small.

Do not invent your own notation and abbreviations, and then expect the grader to figure out what you meant. For instance, do not use "#" in your sentence if you mean "pounds" or "numbers". Do not use the "equals" sign ("=") to mean "indicates", "stands for", "leads to", "is related to", or anything else in a sentence; use actual words. The equals sign should be used only in equations , and only to mean "is equal to".

Do not do magic. Plus/minus signs ("±"), "= 0", radicals, and denominators should not disappear in the middle of your calculations, only to mysteriously reappear at the end. Each step should be complete.

If the problem is of the "Explain" or "Write in your own words" type, then copying the answer from the back of the book, or the definition from the chapter, is unacceptable. Write the answer in your words, not the text's.

Remember to put your final answer at the end of your work, and mark it clearly by, for example, underlining it or drawing a box around it. Label your answer appropriately; if the question asks for measured units, make sure to put appropriate units on the answer. If the question is a word problem, the answer should be in words.

In general, write your homework as though you're trying to convince someone that you know what you're talking about.

You should use your instructor or grader as a study aid, in addition to the text, study guides, study groups, and tutoring services. Your work is much easier to grade when you have made your work and reasoning clear, and any difficulties you have in completing the assignment can be better explained by the grader. More importantly, however, completely worked and corrected homework exercises make excellent study guides for the Final. Also, if you develop good habits while working on the homework, you will generally perform better on the tests.

In summary, schools today have made the development of essential skills, the provision of significant and meaningful learning experiences, and the development of the workforce some of its primary goals for student success. As such, they want their instructors to guide the students toward a higher level of confidence and competence. In math, that translates into a greater need for clarity in mathematical writing. The intention on these "Homework Guidelines" is that you and your instructor communicate better, and that you succeed both in your present mathematics courses and in future mathematical communication with co-workers and clients.

For further information, review these examples of acceptable and unacceptable solutions, and this sheet showing neat and messy papers.

Instructors: These "Homework Guidelines" are copyrighted by Elizabeth Stapel.

You are welcome to use these "Homework Guidelines," in part or in whole, as an asset in teaching your own classes. The only conditions of use are that distribution, if any, of the Homework Guidelines be made at no cost to the recipient(s), that the original copyright notice be retained on copies of this page, and that the following notice be included on all derivative works:

Based on "Homework Guidelines" http://www.purplemath.com/guidline.htm Copyright Elizabeth Stapel Used By Permission

These "Guidelines" are also available as a printer-friendly PDF .

If you would like an example sheet for your students (displaying the differences between acceptable and unacceptable formatting), try this PDF .

URL: https://www.purplemath.com/guidline.htm

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  • Resolution on Homework: Quality Over Quantity

In This Section

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  • PTA's Positions /
  • Resolutions /

Whereas , When appropriately utilized, homework has the potential to be a valuable aid to help students maximize their learning experience; and

Whereas , Homework assignments vary in quality and purpose; evidence-based research has identified that quality homework assignments state clear objectives, are relevant to students, and are grade and age appropriate in terms of ability and time required; and

Whereas , Homework has the potential to negatively impact family and child interactions, and high quantities of homework not only add to stress, but do not necessarily lead to higher achievement outcomes; additionally research has proven that students who spend more than the recommended grade appropriate time on homework can experience no increase or a decrease in academic achievement; and

Whereas , Homework that relies heavily on parental input and supervision has the potential to further increase the achievement gap in our schools and create inequity when it fails to take into account the diversity of parents’ or caregivers’ academic ability, time availability, and resources to adequately support learning at home; now therefore be it

Resolved , That National PTA and its constituent associations support teachers, schools, and districts in promoting the design of meaningful homework that will advance a spirit of learning with a focus on quality assignments to motivate students based on grade and ability; and be it further

Resolved , That National PTA and its constituent associations advocate that teachers, schools, and districts follow evidence-based guidelines regarding the use of homework assignments and its impact on children’s lives and family interactions; and be it further

Resolved , That National PTA encourages its constituent associations to advocate for school districts, boards and administrators to review and/or implement homework policies and appropriate resources to address quality, quantity and equity concerns reflective of their local community; and be it further

Resolved ,   That National PTA collaborates with appropriate national organizations to create or revise model homework policies that take into account all facets and considerations that impact children's successful completion of homework in every local community.

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Sudbury • Massachusetts

Homework Guidelines

The Sudbury Public Schools Homework Committee, comprised of teachers, administrators, and mental health staff from both the elementary and middle school levels, met over the course of the 2017-2018 school year to research the effect of homework on student achievement and the impact of homework on student life.  In addition to reading current research about homework, the committee also conducted surveys with students, staff, and parents and analyzed these results, along with results of the middle school Metrowest Adolescent Health Survey. Based on this work, the Committee has made the following recommendations.  


Reading regularly is closely tied to student achievement and is strongly encouraged at all grade levels.  Independent reading, texts chosen by the reader, has consistently been found to relate to achievement in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and general information. 


At the upper elementary and middle school level, we encourage students to connect with their teachers directly about their learning.  If they are unable to complete an assignment or the assignment is taking longer than the homework guideline times, we want them to talk to their teacher.  Parents are always invited to contact the teachers as well.

  • Homework assignments will be related to instructional objectives and reinforce classroom learning.  Teachers will strive to ensure that students understand the purpose of the assignment and can complete the work independently.
  • Teachers will take into consideration students’ individual needs and available home resources when assigning homework.  
  • Homework assignments will provide opportunities for concept and skill development through review and enrichment experiences.  
  • Completed homework assignments will be reviewed by the teacher to check for student understanding.  Instructional follow-up will occur.   
  • Homework will not be assigned on designated religious holidays, over long weekends (3-days or more), or during vacation weeks.  Weekend homework will not be assigned at all for students in grades K-5. Homework may be given over the weekend in grades 6-8; however, the total time for weekend homework will not exceed the prescribed time for a single evening’s study.  
  • Homework will not exceed the recommended guidelines below.  With long-term projects, teachers will break tasks into manageable chunks that can be completed within these guidelines.  

Grade Homework Time Limits per Night

K-2 No homework other than occasional activities at teacher discretion 

3 0-20 minutes per night maximum, occasional assignments given M-Th

4 0-30 minutes per night maximum, assignments given M-Th only

5 0-45 minutes per night maximum, assignments given M-Th only

6 0-60 minutes per night maximum

7 0-75 minutes per night maximum

8 0-90 minutes per night maximum

Subject teachers will coordinate assignments and assessments so that maximums are not exceeded.  Subject teachers, including World Language, will strive to minimize the number of assessments on the same day.  Team teachers will work to limit major assessments to one per day and not to exceed two per day.  

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homework guidelines

California bill pushes schools to dole out less homework to mitigate student mental health crisis

A proposed California bill could lessen the load on students by asking schools to dole out less homework.

AB 2999, also known as the "Healthy Homework Act," would require districts to update their homework guidelines and adopt an annual policy to be distributed to district officials and families. It encourages local boards to consider students' mental and physical health while taking perspectives from parents, guardians, teachers and students into account.


"As a single parent, I know how stressful homework time can be for our kids and the entire family," said Assemblywoman Pilar Schiavo, one of the bill's sponsors, according to KRON News . "The Healthy Homework Act is about ensuring that our homework policies are healthy for our kids, address the needs of the whole child, and also support family time, time to explore other extra-curricular interests, and give students and families time to connect and recover from the day."

Multiple Golden State students told KSBY in San Luis Obispo that the existing workload they face, combined with their extracurricular commitments, has been daunting. 



One local high school student, Kyan Vanderweel, balances AP classes with band and orchestra practices. He said the AP courses should have a limited amount of homework and said a lot of the homework he's asked to complete is repetitive.

Others, however, told KSBY their workload is manageable.

The Democrat-backed bill notes that research has found "no correlation between the amount of time spent on homework and achievement," and that elementary students who completed more homework were not more likely to earn higher grades than their peers.

Additionally, homework, according to the bill, leads to increased stress, less sleep and less time for extracurricular activities or time with family and friends.


Schiavo told KRON News in San Francisco that the bill will help alleviate some of that stress.

"We know homework is a top three stressor in kids’ overall lives," she said.

"We are in the middle of a student mental health crisis. It’s critical we incorporate homework practices into this discussion to relieve student stress, especially with something we could profoundly impact almost overnight."

Original article source: California bill pushes schools to dole out less homework to mitigate student mental health crisis

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  • Open access
  • Published: 13 May 2024

The impact of the world’s first regulatory, multi-setting intervention on sedentary behaviour among children and adolescents (ENERGISE): a natural experiment evaluation

  • Bai Li   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0003-2706-9799 1 ,
  • Selene Valerino-Perea 2 ,
  • Weiwen Zhou 3 ,
  • Yihong Xie 4 ,
  • Keith Syrett 5 ,
  • Remco Peters 1 ,
  • Zouyan He 4 ,
  • Yunfeng Zou 4 ,
  • Frank de Vocht 6 , 7 &
  • Charlie Foster 1  

International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity volume  21 , Article number:  53 ( 2024 ) Cite this article

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Regulatory actions are increasingly used to tackle issues such as excessive alcohol or sugar intake, but such actions to reduce sedentary behaviour remain scarce. World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on sedentary behaviour call for system-wide policies. The Chinese government introduced the world’s first nation-wide multi-setting regulation on multiple types of sedentary behaviour in children and adolescents in July 2021. This regulation restricts when (and for how long) online gaming businesses can provide access to pupils; the amount of homework teachers can assign to pupils according to their year groups; and when tutoring businesses can provide lessons to pupils. We evaluated the effect of this regulation on sedentary behaviour safeguarding pupils.

With a natural experiment evaluation design, we used representative surveillance data from 9- to 18-year-old pupils before and after the introduction of the regulation, for longitudinal ( n  = 7,054, matched individuals, primary analysis) and repeated cross-sectional ( n  = 99,947, exploratory analysis) analyses. We analysed pre-post differences for self-reported sedentary behaviour outcomes (total sedentary behaviour time, screen viewing time, electronic device use time, homework time, and out-of-campus learning time) using multilevel models, and explored differences by sex, education stage, residency, and baseline weight status.

Longitudinal analyses indicated that pupils had reduced their mean total daily sedentary behaviour time by 13.8% (95% confidence interval [CI]: -15.9 to -11.7%, approximately 46 min) and were 1.20 times as likely to meet international daily screen time recommendations (95% CI: 1.01 to 1.32) one month after the introduction of the regulation compared to the reference group (before its introduction). They were on average 2.79 times as likely to meet the regulatory requirement on homework time (95% CI: 2.47 to 3.14) than the reference group and reduced their daily total screen-viewing time by 6.4% (95% CI: -9.6 to -3.3%, approximately 10 min). The positive effects were more pronounced among high-risk groups (secondary school and urban pupils who generally spend more time in sedentary behaviour) than in low-risk groups (primary school and rural pupils who generally spend less time in sedentary behaviour). The exploratory analyses showed comparable findings.


This regulatory intervention has been effective in reducing total and specific types of sedentary behaviour among Chinese children and adolescents, with the potential to reduce health inequalities. International researchers and policy makers may explore the feasibility and acceptability of implementing regulatory interventions on sedentary behaviour elsewhere.

The growing prevalence of sedentary behaviour in school-aged children and adolescents bears significant social, economic and health burdens in China and globally [ 1 ]–[ 3 ]. Sedentary behaviour refers to any waking behaviour characterised by an energy expenditure equal or lower than 1.5 metabolic equivalents (METs) while sitting, reclining, or lying [ 3 ]. Evidence from systematic reviews, meta-analyses and longitudinal studies have shown that excessive sedentary behaviour, in particular recreational screen-based sedentary behaviour, affect multiple dimensions of children and adolescents’ wellbeing, spanning across mental health [ 4 ], cognitive functions/developmental health/academic performance [ 5 ], [ 6 ], quality of life [ 7 ], and physical health [ 8 ]. In China, over 60% of school pupils use part of their sleep time to play mobile phones/digital games and watch TV programmes, and 27% use their sleep time to do homework or other learning activities [ 9 ]. Screen-based, sedentary entertainment has become the leading cause for going to bed late, which is linked to detrimental consequences for children’s physical and mental health [ 10 ]. Notably, academic-related activities such as post-school homework and off campus tutoring also contribute to the increasing amounts of sedentary behaviour. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, China is the leading country in time spent on homework by adolescents (14 h/week on average) [ 11 ].

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this global challenge, with children and adolescents reported to have been the most affected group [ 12 ]. Schools are a frequently targeted setting for interventions to reduce sedentary behaviour [ 13 ]. However, school-based interventions have had limited success when delivered under real-world conditions or at scale [ 14 ]. School-based interventions alone have also been unsuccessful in mitigating the trend of increasing sedentary behaviour that is driven by a complex system of interdependent factors across multiple sectors [ 13 ]. Even for parents and carers who intend to restrict screen-based sedentary behaviour and for children who wish to reduce screen-based sedentary behaviour, social factors including peer pressure often form barriers to changing behaviour [ 15 ]. In multiple public health fields such as tobacco control and healthy eating promotion, there has been a notable shift away from downstream (e.g., health education) towards an upstream intervention approach (e.g., sugar taxation). However, regulatory actions for sedentary behaviour are scarce [ 16 ]. World Health Organization (WHO) 2020 guidelines on sedentary behaviour encourage sustainable and scalable approaches for limiting sedentary behaviour and call for more system-wide policies to improve this global challenge [ 8 ]. Up-stream interventions can act on sedentary behaviour more holistically and have the potential to maximise reach and health impact [ 13 ]. In response to this pressing issue, and to widespread demands from many parents/carers, the Chinese government introduced nationwide regulations in 2021 to restrict (i) the amount of homework that teachers can assign, (ii) when (and for how long) online gaming businesses can provide access to young people, and (iii) when tutoring businesses can provide lessons [ 17 ], [ 18 ]. Consultations with WHO officials and reviewers of international health policy interventions confirmed that this is currently the only government-led, multi-setting regulatory intervention on multiple types of sedentary behaviour among school-aged children and adolescents. A detailed description of this programme is available in the Additional File 1 .

We evaluated the impact of this regulatory intervention on sedentary behaviour in Chinese school-aged children and adolescents. We also investigated whether and how intervention effects differed by sex, education stage, geographical area, and baseline weight status.

Study design

The introduction of the nationwide regulation provided a unique opportunity for a natural experiment evaluation where the pre-regulation comparator group data (Wave 1) was compared to the post-regulation group data (Wave 2). Multiple components of the intervention (see Additional File 1 ) were introduced in phases from July 2021 with all components being fully in place by September 2021 [ 17 ], [ 18 ]. This paper follows the STROBE reporting guidance [ 19 ], [ 20 ].

Data source, study population and sampling

We obtained regionally representative data on 99,947 pupils who are resident in the Chinese province of Guangxi as part of Guangxi Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) routine surveillance. The data, available from participants in grade 4 (aged between 9 and 10 years) and higher, were collected using a multi-stage random sampling design (Fig.  1 ) through school visits by trained health professionals following standardised protocols (see Supplementary Fig.  1 , Additional File 1 ). In Wave 1 (data collected from September to November 2020), pupils were randomly selected from schools in 31 urban/rural counties from 14 cities in Guangxi. At least eight schools, including primary, secondary, high schools, and ‘vocational high schools’, were selected from urban counties. Five schools were selected from rural counties. Approximately 80 students were randomly selected from each grade at the schools selected. The same schools were invited to participate in Wave 2 (data collected from September to November 2021), and new schools were invited to replace Wave 1 schools that no longer participated. Children with available data at both Wave 1 and Wave 2 represented approximately 10% of the sample ( n  = 7,587). Paper-based questionnaires were administrated to students by trained personnel or teachers. The questionnaires were designed and validated by China National Health Commission, and have been utilised in routine surveillance throughout the country.

figure 1

Flow diagram of participants included in the ENERGISE study

We used data from the age groups 7–18 years for most analyses. For specific analyses of homework and out-of-campus tutoring, we excluded high school pupils (16–18 years) because the homework and out-of-campus tutoring regulations apply to primary (7–12 years) and middle (13–15 years) school pupils only. Furthermore, participants without socio-demographic data or those who reported medical history of disease, or a physical disability were excluded. This gave us a total sample of 7,054 eligible school-aged children and adolescents with matching data (longitudinal sample).

Outcomes and subgroups

Guangxi CDC used purposively designed questions for surveillance purposes to assess sedentary behaviour outcomes (Table  1 ).

The primary outcomes of interest included: (1) total sedentary behaviour time, (2) homework time, (3) out-of-campus learning (private tutoring) time, and (4) electronic device use time (Table  1 ). We considered electronic device use time, including mobile phones, handheld game consoles, and tablets, the most suitable estimator of online game time (estimand) in the surveillance programme since these are the main devices used for online gaming in China [ 23 ]. Secondary outcomes were: (1) total screen-viewing time, (2) internet-use time, (3) likelihood of meeting international screen-viewing time recommendations, and (4) likelihood of meeting the regulation on homework time (Table  1 ).

We calculated total sedentary behaviour time as the sum of total screen-viewing time (secondary outcome), homework time, and out-of-campus learning time (Table  1 ). Total screen-viewing time represents the sum of electronic device use time per day, TV/video game use time per day, and computer use time per day (Table  1 ). Total screen-viewing time was considered as an alternative estimator of online game time (estimand) since TV/videogame console use time and computer time could also capture the small proportion of children who use these devices for online gaming (Table  1 ). The international screen-viewing time recommendations were based on the American Academy of Paediatrics guidelines [ 21 ]. We did not include internet use time (secondary outcome) in total screen-viewing time, and total sedentary behaviour time, because this measure likely overlaps with other variables.

We defined subgroups by demographic characteristics, including the child’s sex (at birth: girls or boys), date of birth, education stage [primary school or secondary school [including middle school, high school, and ‘occupational schools’]), children’s residency (urban versus rural) and children’s baseline weight status (non-overweight versus overweight/obesity). Each sampling site selected for the survey was classified by the surveillance personnel as urban/rural and as lower-, medium-, or higher-economic level based on the area’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The area’s GDP per capita was measured by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Trained personnel also measured height, and weight using calibrated stadiometers and scales. Children’s weight/height were measured with light clothing and no shoes. Measurements during both waves were undertaken when students lived a normal life (no lockdowns, school were opened normally). We classified weight status (normal weight vs. overweight/obesity) according to the Chinese national reference charts [ 24 ].

Statistical analyses

We treated sedentary behaviour values that exceeded 24-hours per day as missing. We did not exclude extreme values for body mass index from the analyses 25 . Additional information, justifications, and results of implausible and missing values can be found in the Supplementary Table 1 , Additional File 1 .

The assumptions for normality and heteroscedasticity were assessed visually by inspecting residuals. We assessed multicollinearity via variance inflation factors. The outcome variables for linear regression outcomes were transformed using square roots to meet assumptions. We reported descriptive demographic characteristics (age, sex, area of residence, socioeconomic status), weight status, and outcome variables using means (or medians for non-normally distributed data) and proportions [ 26 ]

We ran multilevel models with random effects nested at the school and child levels to compare the outcomes in Wave 1 against Wave 2. We developed separate models for each sedentary behaviour outcome variable. We treated the introduction of the nationwide regulation as the independent binary variable (0 for Wave 1 and 1 for Wave 2). We ran linear models for continuous outcomes, logistic models for binary outcomes, and ordered logistic models for ordinal outcomes in a complete case analysis estimating population average treatment effects [ 27 ]. For the main analysis, in which participants had measurements in both Waves (longitudinal sample), only those with non-missing data at both time points were included.

We estimated marginal effects for each sedentary behaviour outcome. With a self-developed directed acyclic graph (DAG) we identified age (continuous), sex (male/female), area of residence (urban/rural), and socioeconomic status (high/medium/low) as confounders (see Supplementary Figs. 2–4, Additional File 1 ).

We evaluated subgroup effects defined by child’s sex at birth (boys versus girls), child’s stage of education (primary school versus secondary school [including middle school, high school, and ‘occupational schools’]), children’s residency (rural versus urban), and children’s baseline weight status (non-overweight versus overweight/obesity). We also repeated the covariate-adjusted model with interaction terms (between Wave and sex; Wave and child stage of education; Wave and residency; and Wave and weight status). We adjusted for multiple testing using Bonferroni correction ( p 0.05 divided by the number of performed tests for an outcome). The resulting cut-off point of p  < 0.005 was used to determine the presence of any interaction effects.

We also conducted exploratory analyses (including subgroup analyses) by evaluating the same models with a representative, cross-sectional sample of 99,947 pupils. This cross-sectional sample included different schools and children at Wave 1 and Wave 2. We therefore used propensity score (PS) weighting to account for sample imbalances in the socio-demographic characteristics. Propensity scores were calculated by conducting a logistic regression, which calculated the likelihood of each individual to be in Wave 2 (dependent variable). Individual’s age, sex, area of residence and the GDP per area were treated as independent variables. Subsequently, inverse probability of treatment weighting was applied to balance the demographic characteristics in the sample in Wave 1 (unexposed to the regulatory intervention) and Wave 2 (exposed to the regulatory intervention). The sample weight for individuals in Wave 1 were calculated using the Eq. 1/ (1-propensity score). The sample weight for individuals in Wave 2 were calculated using the Eq. 1/propensity score [ 28 ].

We only ran linear models for continuous outcomes since it was not possible to run PS-weighted multilevel models with this sample size in Stata. We conducted all statistical analyses in Stata version 16.0.

Participant sample

In our primary, longitudinal analyses, we analysed data from 7,054 children and adolescents. The mean age was 12.3 years (SD, 2.4) and 3,477 (49.3%) were girls (Table  2 ). More detailed information on characteristics of subgroups in the longitudinal sample are presented in the Supplementary Tables 2–5, Additional File 2 .

Primary outcomes

Children and adolescents reported a reduction in their daily mean total sedentary behaviour time by 13.8% (95% CI: -15.9 to -11.7), or 46 min, on average between Waves 1 and 2. Participants were also less likely to report having increased their time spent on homework (adjusted odd ratio/AOR: 0.39; 95% CI: 0.35–0.43) and in out-of-campus learning (AOR: 0.53; 95% CI: 0.47 to 0.59) in Wave 2 in comparison to Wave 1, respectively (Tables  3 and 4 ). We did not find any changes in electronic device use time.

Secondary outcomes

Participants reported reducing their mean daily screen-viewing time by 6.4% (95% CI: -9.6 to -3.3%), or 10 min, on average (Tables  3 and 4 ). Participants were also 20% as likely to meet international screen time recommendations (AOR: 1.20; 95% CI: 1.09 to 1.32) and were 2.79 times as likely to meet the regulatory requirement on homework time (95% CI: 2.47 to 3.14) compared to the reference group (before the introduction of the regulation).

Subgroup analyses

Most screen- and study-related sedentary behaviour outcomes differed by education stage ( p  < 0.005) (see Supplementary Tables 6–13, Additional File 2 ), with the reductions being larger in secondary school pupils than in primary school pupils (Tables  3 and 4 , and Table  5 ). Only secondary school pupils reduced their total screen-viewing time (-8.4%; 95% CI: -12.4 to -4.3) and were also 1.41 times as likely to meet screen-viewing recommendations (AOR: 1.41; 95% CI: 1.23 to 1.61) at Wave 2 compared to Wave 1.

Conversely, at Wave 2, primary school pupils reported a lower likelihood of spending more time doing homework (AOR: 0.30; 95%: 0.26 to 0.34) than secondary school pupils (AOR: 0.58; 95% CI: 0.50 to 0.67) compared to their counterparts at Wave 1. At Wave 2, primary school pupils also had a higher likelihood of reporting meeting homework time recommendations (AOR: 3.61; 95% CI: 3.09 to 4.22) than secondary school pupils (middle- and high school) (AOR: 2.11; 95% CI: 1.74 to 2.56) compared to their counterparts at Wave 1 (Table  5 ). There was also a residence interaction effect ( p  < 0.001) in total sedentary behaviour time, with participants in urban areas reporting larger reductions (-15.3%; 95% CI: -17.8 to -12.7) than those in rural areas (-11.2%; 95% CI: -15.0 to -7.4). There was no evidence of modifying effects by children’s sex or baseline weight status (Tables  4 and 5 ).

Findings from the exploratory repeated cross-sectional analyses were similar to the findings of the main longitudinal analyses including total sedentary behaviour time, electronic device use time, total screen-viewing time and internet use time (see Supplementary Tables 14–23, Additional File 2 ).

Principal findings

Our study evaluated the impact of the world’s first regulatory, multi-setting intervention on multiple types of sedentary behaviour among school-aged children and adolescents in China. We found that children and adolescents reduced their total sedentary behaviour time, screen-viewing time, homework time and out-of-campus learning time following its implementation. The positive intervention effects on total screen-viewing time (-8.4 vs. -2.3%), and the likelihood of meeting recommendations on screen-viewing time (1.41 vs. 1.02 AOR) were more pronounced in secondary school pupils compared with primary school pupils. Intervention effects on total sedentary behaviour time (-15.3 vs. -11.2%) were more pronounced among pupils living in the urban area (compared to pupils living in the rural area). These subgroup differences imply that the regulatory intervention benefit more the groups known to have a higher rate of sedentary behaviour [ 29 ].

Interestingly, the observed reduction in electronic device use itself did not reach statistical significance following implementation of regulation. This could be viewed as a positive outcome if this is correctly inferred and not the result of reporting bias or measurement error. International data indicated that average sedentary and total screen time have increased among children due to the COVID-19 pandemic [ 12 ]. However, such interesting finding might be explained by the absence of lockdowns in Guangxi during both surveillance waves when most school-aged students outside China were affected by pandemic mitigation measures such as online learning.

Strengths and weaknesses

Our study has several notable strengths. This is the first study to evaluate the impact of multi-setting nationwide regulations on multiple types of sedentary behaviour in a large and regionally representative sample of children and adolescents. Still, to gain a more comprehensive view of the regulatory intervention on sedentary behaviour across China, similar evaluation research should be conducted in other regions of China. Furthermore, access to a rich longitudinal dataset allowed for more robust claims of causality. The available data also allowed us to measure the effect of the intervention on multiple sedentary behaviours including recreational screen-time and academic-related behaviours. Lastly, the large data set allowed us to explore whether the effect of the regulatory intervention varied across important subgroups, suggesting areas for further research and development.

Some limitations need to be taken into consideration when interpreting our findings. First, a common limitation in non-controlled/non-randomised intervention studies is residual confounding. We aimed to limit this by adjusting our analysis for confounders known to impact the variables of interest, but it is impossible to know whether important confounding may still have been present. With maturation bias, it is possible that secular trends are the cause for any observed effects. However, this seems unlikely in our study as older children may spend more time doing homework [ 23 ] and engage more in screen-viewing activities [ 30 ]. In this study, we observed reductions in these outcomes. The use of self-reported outcomes (social desirability bias) was a limitation and might have led to the intervention effects being over-estimated [ 13 ]. However, since our data were collected as part of a routine surveillance programme, pupils were unaware of the evaluation. This might mitigate reporting bias. In addition, the data were collected in Guangxi which might not representative of the whole population in China. Another limitation is using electronic device use time as a proxy measure of online gaming time. It is possible that electronic devices can be used for other purposes. However, mobile phones, handheld game consoles and tablets are the main devices used for online gaming. In this study, electronic device use time provided a practical means of assessing the broad effects of regulatory measures on screen time behaviours, including online gaming, in a large (province level) surveillance programme. In the future, instruments specifically designed to capture online gaming behaviour should be used in surveillance and research work.

Comparisons with other studies

Neither China nor other countries globally have previously implemented and evaluated multi-setting regulatory interventions on multiple types of sedentary behaviour, which makes comparative discussions challenging. In general, results of health behaviour research over the past decades have shown that interventions that address structural and environmental determinants of multiple behaviours to be more effective in comparison with individual-focussed interventions [ 31 ]. Furthermore, the continuous and universal elements of regulatory interventions may be particularly important explanations for the observed reductions in sedentary behaviour. Standalone school and other institution-led interventions may struggle with financial and logistic costs which threaten long-term implementation [ 13 ]. In contrast, the universality element of regulatory intervention can reduce or remove peer pressures and potential stigmatisation among children and teachers that are often associated with more selective/targeted interventions [ 24 ]. Our findings support WHO guidelines for physical activity and sedentary behaviour that encourage sustainable and scalable approaches for limiting sedentary behaviour and call for more system-wide policies to improve this global challenge[ 8 ].

Implications for future policy and research

Our study has important implications for future research and practice both nationally and internationally. Within China, future research should focus on optimising the implementation of the regulatory intervention through implementation research and assess long-term effects of the regulation on both behavioral and health outcomes. Internationally, our findings also provide a promising policy avenue for other countries and communities outside of China to explore the opportunities and barriers to implement such programmes on sedentary behaviour. This exploratory process could start with assessing how key stakeholders (including school-aged children, parents/carers, schoolteachers, health professionals, and policy makers) within different country contexts perceive regulatory actions as an intervention approach for improving health and wellbeing in young people, and how they can be tailored to fit their own contexts. Within public health domains, including healthy eating promotion, tobacco and alcohol control, regulatory intervention approaches (e.g., smoking bans and sugar taxation) have been adopted. However, regulatory actions for sedentary behaviour are scarce [ 19 ]. Within the education sector, some countries recently banned mobile phone use in schools for academic purpose [ 25 ]. While this implies potential feasibility and desirability of such interventions internationally, there is little research on the demand for, and acceptability of, multi-faceted sedentary behaviour regulatory interventions for the purpose of improving health and wellbeing. It will be particularly important to identify and understand any differences in perceptions and feasibility both within (e.g., public versus policy makers) and across countries of differing socio-cultural-political environments.

This natural experiment evaluation indicates that a multi-setting, regulatory intervention on sedentary behaviour has been effective in reducing total sedentary behaviour, and multiple types of sedentary behaviour among Chinese school-aged children and adolescents. Contextually appropriate, regulatory interventions on sedentary behaviour could be explored and considered by researchers and policy makers in other countries.

Data availability

Access to anonymised data used in this study can be requested through the corresponding author BL, subject to approval by the Guangxi CDC. WZ and SVP have full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.


Centre for disease control and prevention

Directed acyclic graph

Gross domestic product

Metabolic equivalents

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

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We would like to acknowledge Dr Peter Green and Dr Ruth Salway for providing feedback on the initial data analysis plan, and Dr Hugo Pedder and Lauren Scott who provided feedback on the statistical analyses.

This work was funded by the Wellcome Trust through the Global Public Health Research Strand, Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for Health Research. The funder of our study had no role in the design and conduct of the study; collection, management, analysis, and interpretation of the data; preparation, review, or approval of the manuscript; and decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Bai Li, Remco Peters & Charlie Foster

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Selene Valerino-Perea

Department of Nutrition and School Health, Guangxi Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanning, Guangxi, China

Weiwen Zhou

School of Public Health, Guangxi Medical University, Nanning, Guangxi, China

Yihong Xie, Zouyan He & Yunfeng Zou

Centre for Health, Law, and Society, School of Law, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

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Population Health Sciences, Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK

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BL conceived the study idea and obtained the funding with support from WZ, CF, KS, YX, YZ, ZH and RP. BL, CF, FdV and KS designed the study. WZ led data collection and provided access to the data. YX, SVP and ZH cleaned the data. SVP analysed the data with guidance from BL, FdV and CF. BL, SVP and RP drafted the paper which was revised by other authors. All authors read and approved the final manuscript for submission.

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Correspondence to Bai Li .

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Ethics approvals were granted by the School for Policy Studies Research Ethics Committee at the University of Bristol (reference number SPSREC/20–21/168) and the Research Ethics Committee at Guangxi Medical University (reference number 0136). Written informed consent was obtained from each participant, and a parent or guardian for participants aged < 20 years.

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Li, B., Valerino-Perea, S., Zhou, W. et al. The impact of the world’s first regulatory, multi-setting intervention on sedentary behaviour among children and adolescents (ENERGISE): a natural experiment evaluation. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 21 , 53 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-024-01591-w

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    Ditch The Homework Mindset . A bright young woman worked for my organization right out of school. She had been first in her class in high school, and she excelled in college by fiercely attending ...

  26. The impact of the world's first regulatory, multi-setting intervention

    Regulatory actions are increasingly used to tackle issues such as excessive alcohol or sugar intake, but such actions to reduce sedentary behaviour remain scarce. World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines on sedentary behaviour call for system-wide policies. The Chinese government introduced the world's first nation-wide multi-setting regulation on multiple types of sedentary behaviour in ...