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Study: Stress of homework hurts students' grades

Friday - 3/28/2014, 7:40am  ET

WASHINGTON -- How much homework is too much?

A research team at Stanford University surveyed 4,317 students from 10 of the top high schools in California to try to answer the question.

These students reported just more than three hours of homework each night, and 56 percent said they consider homework their primary source of stress. Many of those teens told the researchers they suffer from sleep deprivation and other health problems.

The findings came as no surprise to Ann Dolin, president of EC Tutoring and author of the book "Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools and Solutions for Stress Free Homework."

She says the general rule of thumb is students should have about 10 minutes of homework per grade level: 30 minutes maximum for a third grader, an hour for a sixth grader and so on.

"Anything more than that amount of time in middle and high school, you kind of get to the point of no return," Dolin says.

She urges concerned parents to keep close tabs on the amount of time their child spends on homework, taking into account the almost-inevitable breaks.

Keep a log for a week, and if the number of hours is too high, email the teacher and pass on the number. That way, says Dolin, "it's not just a feeling, but you have the actual information."

She says excessive homework can have the unintended impact of turning a kid off to education.

"I think we have a lot of kids who are burnt out when they get older," she says, "and its a huge issue."

Blame it, perhaps, on the highly competitive college admission process. Dolin cites incoming freshmen at the University of Virginia. In 2007, the average GPA for incoming freshman was 3.7. Today, it is 4.21.

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