Signatures and comments urging reform of current homework practices at U.S. schools are pouring into the site where parents, students and educators have been invited to sign a petition urging the National PTA to adopt healthy homework guidelines.

In fewer than four days, the petition received more than 10,000 signatures and nearly 900 comments from people countrywide. The petition was launched by the team behind “Race to Nowhere”, the powerful documentary that exposes an epidemic of academic stress and burnout among American students. The petitionhas also been embraced by prominent education policymakers and homework experts, including Alfie Kohn, Sara Bennett and Etta Kralovec.

 “Homework is destroying our kids,” wrote one parent from Studio City, Calif. A mother from Massachusetts noted that her 8th grade daughter has three to six hours of homework a night and “has literally no time to be outdoors, get exercise or enjoy the sun.” A young Colorado woman, now attending a top liberal arts college, said she started pulling all-nighters in 7th grade, not because of poor time management on her part, but because of the ‘sheer overload’ of assignments.“ In pushing herself to achieve, she says she drove herself into “extreme burnout.”

Working hard in college is fine, she writes, because she’s now older, more developmentally ready and invested in her subject. In contrast, the amount of work expected in high school “was obscene” and “unrealistic,” she says. She says it  has the potential to hurt all students’ appreciation for learning.

A former teacher from California added that homework could theoretically help instruction but that, in practice, it instead promotes “busy work” rather than genuinely enhancing students’ grasp of what they learn in class.

“Societally, we seem to be adding more work as an unconscious habit and reaction to fear of declining achievement, rather than as an intentional educational tool,” he writes.

Concerns that too much homework hurts rather than helps learning has gained momentum in education circles and among parents over the past few years.

Studies continue to question the relationship between time spent doing homework and academic achievement, the petition points out. Research published by the Economics of Education Review concluded that homework in science, English and history was shown to have "little to no impact" on eighth graders' test scores in those subjects. Harris Cooper, a Duke University professor and one of the foremost U.S. scholars on homework, looked at 15 years’ worth of research on homework and found diminishing returns for middle and high school students as the hours spent doing homework increased.

“I have a child who lost a beautiful attitude about school and the joy of learning at an early age due to mounds of homework keeping her up until midnight most weeknights,” another parent commented, in reaction to the petition.

The extreme burnout described by the Colorado college student echoes the experiences of students responding to Race to Nowhere across the country. Burnout, academic disengagement and serious health consequences are also showing up in increasingly younger students.

According to a study by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, 70% of Bay Area parents reported that their 9- to 13-year-olds suffered "moderate to high levels of stress", and that schoolwork or homework was the most significant contributor.

Many signing the petition add that excessive homework hurts family life, with evenings and weekends sometimes taken up with parents battling with their kids over completing assignments.

A Houston mother, in declaring her support for the petition, describes how homework pressure led her daughter to suffer a mental breakdown and to spend several weeks in a psychiatric hospital. The girl had to withdraw from high school but managed to still graduate via online courses. “Smart, driven, successful, but almost didn't make it out of high school,” she writes, adding, “there are big problems with the homework situation.”

Read and sign the petition today, and spread the word to your local PTA by sharing this link on your social media accounts

And view the proposed homework guidelines here: /ask-national-pta-support-healthy-homework-guidelines