Fact Sheet—Homework: What Do We Know?

For Release

October 1, 2003

At the beginning of every school year, considerable parental and public attention turns to homework—do students have too much, do they have enough, does it have an effect on how students spend their time or their level of learning? These and other issues are addressed in a forthcoming article in the November issue of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis (EEPA), published by the American Educational Research Association (AERA).

The authors of the article, "A Nation at Rest: The American Way of Homework," are Brian P. Gill, social scientist at the RAND Corporation, and Steven L. Schlossman, professor of history, Carnegie Mellon University. Their study looks at homework trends examining major national surveys over the past 50 years. Although public opinion about homework was volatile and contentious throughout the 20th century, the data on doing homework are remarkably stable:

  • Between 1948 and 1999, there was no “golden age” when American students, willingly or unwillingly, did massive amounts of homework.
  • A temporary increase in homework time by high school students is evident only in the post-Sputnik decade. (See figure below.)
  • Time spent on homework does not consistently increase as students move to higher grades.
  • A new willingness surfaced in the last 20 years to assign some homework to primary-grade students, though research suggests it matters least for academic achievement.
    In citing these findings, please reference the article in press for the fall 2003 issue of EEPA 25(3). The full article will be available Wednesday, November 12.


AERA represents 22,000 educators who conduct research and evaluation in education. Founded in 1916 and based in Washington, D.C., this learned society offers a comprehensive program of scholarly publications, training, fellowships, and meetings to advance educational research, disseminate knowledge, and improve the capacity of the profession to serve the public good. EEPA is one of six peer reviewed, scholarly journals published by the AERA. For further information on EEPA and AERA's other journals and scholarly communications, see www.aera.net

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