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But in families of limited means, it’s often another story.Many low-income parents value homework as an important connection to the school and the curriculum—even as their children report receiving little homework.While teachers at both levels note the value of homework for reinforcing classroom content, those in the earlier grades are more likely to assign homework mainly to foster skills such as responsibility, perseverance, and the ability to manage distractions. Might a focus on homework in a specific subject shed more light on the homework-achievement connection?
While correlation does not imply causality, extensive research has established that at the middle- and high-school levels, homework completion is strongly and positively associated with high achievement.
Very few studies have reported a negative correlation.
Recent years have seen an increase in the amount of homework assigned to students in grades K–2, and critics point to research findings that, at the elementary-school level, homework does not appear to enhance children’s learning.
Why, then, should we burden young children and their families with homework if there is no academic benefit to doing it?
Contrary to previous findings, researchers reported a stronger relationship between homework and achievement in the elementary grades than in middle school.
As the study authors note, one explanation for this finding could be that in elementary school, teachers tend to assign more homework in math than in other subjects, while at the same time assigning shorter math tasks more frequently.
As noted above, findings on the homework-achievement connection at the elementary level are mixed.
A small number of experimental studies have demonstrated that elementary-school students who receive homework achieve at higher levels than those who do not.
Allison, a mother of two middle-school girls from an affluent Boston suburb, describes a frenetic afterschool scenario: “My girls do gymnastics a few days a week, so homework happens for my 6th grader after gymnastics, at p.m. My 8th grader does her homework immediately after school, up until gymnastics.
She eats dinner at and then goes to bed, unless there is more homework to do, in which case she’ll get to bed around 10.” The girls miss out on sleep, and weeknight family dinners are tough to swing.