The Washington Post

Study: Homework linked to better standardized test scores

Researchers who looked at data from more than 18,000 10th-graders found there was little correlation between the time students spent doing homework and better grades in math and science courses. But, according to a study on the research, they did find a positive relationship between standardized test performance and the amount of time spent on homework.

The study, called ”When Is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association Between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math,” was conducted by Adam Maltese, assistant professor of science education at the Indiana University School of Education; Robert H. Tai, associate professor of science education at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, and Xitao Fan, dean of education at the University of Macau.

According to a news release by Indiana University, the researchers looked at survey and transcript data from the students in an effort to explain their academic performance and concluded that despite earlier research to the contrary, homework time did not correlate to the final course grade that students received in math and science classes.

The value of homework has been the subject of various research studies over the years, yet there is still no conclusive evidence that it makes a big difference in helping students improve achievement. The most often-cited studies are those that conclude that there is virtually no evidence that it helps in elementary school but some evidence that it does improve academic performance in later grades. Yet this newest study looked at 10th graders and found no correlation.

The study did, however, find a positive association between time spent on homework and student scores on standardized tests. It doesn’t directly conclude that the homework actually affected the test scores, but the university release quotes Maltese as saying that “if students are spending more time on homework, they’re getting exposed to the types of questions and the procedures for answering questions that are not so different from standardized tests.”

That, of course, would depend on the kind of homework students receive. Maltese is further quoted as saying, “”We’re not trying to say that all homework is bad. It’s expected that students are going to do homework. This is more of an argument that it should be quality over quantity. So in math, rather than doing the same types of problems over and over again, maybe it should involve having students analyze new types of problems or data. In science, maybe the students should write concept summaries instead of just reading a chapter and answering the questions at the end.”

The co-authors also recommend that education policymakers better evaluate homework — the kinds of assignments that are most useful and the time required to make the work effective.

 You may also be interested in this: 3 Healthy Guidelines for Homework


Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Valerie Strauss · November 19, 2012

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.