Too much homework? Sorry, kids, the adults aren't buying it.
Most parents say their children get the right amount of homework, and most teachers agree, according to an AP-AOL Learning Services Poll.
Even among the parents and teachers who say the load assigned these days is out of whack, more say it's too light — not too heavy.
In Palmdale, Calif., Dwight Daugherty, 52, says his two sons barely take home any homework from high school. "Kids," he says, "aren't being as well educated as I was."
Parents seem rather content, though, with the demands that homework places on their own time.
In the poll, 64 percent of parents said they have little trouble finding time to help with homework, and 57 percent said they spend the right amount of time helping out.
And for those parents who haven't dipped into an algebra or chemistry book in a while? No worries — 70 percent say the homework they see is not too difficult for them to help with.
Teachers, however, are skeptical about the support children get at home. Almost nine in 10 said parents don't set aside enough time to help.
By subject, math is the one that kids need the most help with, parents and teachers agree.
When Cindy Gilpin's two children bring home math in Burlington, Mass., she tries to help, but she has a back-up plan for them: "Go find your father."
As homework aids go, the Internet gets high marks, parents and teachers said in the AP-AOL Poll. More than 80 percent of both groups rated Internet resources as good or very good.
The survey also found:
So how much homework is too much? That's the question that elicits emotion, the one that sends parents to their school board asking why weary kids must lug home huge book bags.
Not so for Stephen Orlando, 48, an engineer in Canal Fulton, Ohio. He says his 11th-grade daughter does four hours of homework a night. When 10 p.m. rolls around, he and his wife tell her: "You're done, that's enough."
Such personal stories are real. But apparently they are not the national reality.
Parents polled said their children spend an average of 90 minutes a night on homework. The workload grows as the students do — 78 minutes of homework a night in elementary school, 99 minutes in middle school and 105 in high school.
Even those numbers might be lofty. Could be that parents don't really know how much time kids spend on homework when the bedroom door shuts. Consider what the students say.
Most children aged 9, 13 and 17 years say they spend less than an hour a night on homework, according to a long-term federal study. That load has held steady, if not dropped, over the past 20 years. Plenty of students say they are not assigned any homework at all.
And the United States doesn't exactly overburden its students. The nation is right in the middle of the pack of industrialized nations when it comes to the homework load for 15-year-olds.
The way John Gainer sees it, keeping the homework light helps his students learn.
Gainer is a high school English and journalism teacher in Maben, Miss., where most of his students are poor and have no access to the Internet at home. So he schedules time for kids to do research and get feedback at school, a place where he knows they can concentrate.
Nationally, parents and teachers disagree on whether kids get enough help at home.
Elaine Carter says she tries. A 46-year-old mom in South Jordan, Utah, Carter works part time and has five children in school. The family reads each morning, a house rule.
But still, Carter says: "I'm sure I don't spend enough time on homework with my kids."
Charmayne Roberts of Union City, Calif., got A's in algebra when she was in school. But she gets frustrated trying to explain math in a way her middle-school daughter understands.
"They say the older you get, you acquire more patience," she said. "But that hasn't happened to me."
The AP-AOL poll of 1,085 parents and 810 teachers of children in kindergarten through 12th grade was conducted online Jan. 13-23 by Knowledge Networks after respondents were initially contacted by using traditional telephone polling. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for parents, 3.5 points for teachers.
By Ben Feller