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What does the research say about homework policies and practices?

August 2017

Following an established REL Northeast & Islands research protocol, we conducted a search for recent research on homework policies and practices. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed research on policies and practices for homework for various grade levels based on its impact on student achievement. The sources searched included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this  response and we offer them only for your reference. Because our search for references is based on the most commonly used resources of research, it is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Vatterott, C. (2017). One-Size-Doesn’t-Fit-All Homework. Educational Leadership, 74(6), 34–39.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1132301
    From the abstract: “At one elementary school in Massachusetts, students are actually excited about homework. In this article, Cathy Vatterott and educators from Vinal Elementary School explain how--and why--they have made the shift to individua lized homework, "a methodical, standards-based approach that starts with big ideas and enduring understandings from the curriculum." Instead of assigning the same work to every student, teachers use individualized homework  to allow  for  more student  agency and a tailored  approach to skills  practice. The article  outlines  how  students  set measurable goals, choose assignments, pursue interests, present their learning, and reflect  on their progress. The authors also  detail  how  they address parental concerns and students' needs as they move away from one-size-fits-all homework.”
  2. Brookings Institution. Brown Center on Education  Policy  (2014).  The 2014  Brown Center Report on American Education: How Well are American Students  Learning?  With special sections on PISA-Shanghai Controversy, Homework, and the Common Core. Washington, D.C. :Brown Center on Education Policy, Brookings Institution, 3(3), 1-40.
    https://www.brookings.edu/research/2014-brown-center-report-on-american-education-how-well-are-american-students-learning-2/
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED586313
    From the introduction: “This year’s Brown Center Report on American Education represents the third installment of volume three and the 13th issue overall since the publication began in 2000. Three studies are presented. All three revisit a topic that has been investigated in a previous Brown Center Report. The topics warrant attention again because they are back in the public spotlight….Part I summarizes the recent controversy involving the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and its treatment of Shanghai-China….Part II is on homework, updating a study presented in the 2003 Brown Center Report….Part III is on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).”
  3. Schrat Carr, N. (2013). Increasing the Effectiveness of Homework for All Learners in the Inclusive Classroom. School Community Journal, 23(1), 169-182.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1004337
    From the abstract: “This article discusses how teachers can increase the effectiveness of homework assignments for all learners. Homework, when designed and implemented properly, is a valuable tool for reinforcing learning. This essay provides a summary of educational research on homework, discusses the elements of effective homework, and suggests practical classroom applications for teachers. The synthesis  of  these three areas is intended to supplement the literature on homework in order to help preprofessional and current teachers increase the effectiveness of homework and employ best practices in inclusive classroom settings. With the increasing number of students with special needs included in general education settings and the increasing pressure placed on students to make academic gains on standardized tests, it  is  more  important  than ever that teachers are equipped with the tools necessary to effectively  use homework  as a learning  tool  for all students regardless of their ability levels.”

  4. Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C. & Patal, E. A. (2006). Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003. Review of Educational Research, 76(1), 1–62.
    https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.3102/00346543076001001
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ751143
    From the abstract: “In this article, research conducted in the United States since 1987 on the effects of homework is summarized. Studies are grouped into four  research designs. The authors found that all studies, regardless of type, had design flaws. However, both within and across design types, there was generally consistent evidence for a positive influence of homework on achievement. Studies that reported simple homework-achievement correlations revealed evidence that a stronger correlation existed (a) in Grades 7-12 than in K-6 and (b) when students rather than parents reported time on homework. No strong evidence was found for an association between the homework- achievement link and the outcome measure (grades as opposed to standardized tests) or the subject matter (reading as opposed to math). On the basis of these results and others, the authors suggest future research.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

National Education Association: http://www.nea.org/tools/16938.htm
From the website: Research Spotlight on Homework: NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education.

Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

Homework and student achievement

Homework  effectiveness

Homework benefits

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education  Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar, the National Education Association, EBSCOhost, the Institute of Education Sciences and JSTOR.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were included in the search and review.

Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including WWC, ERIC, and NCEE.

Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types – randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order; (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc.; (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.


This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Northeast & Islands Region (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, US Virgin Islands, and Vermont), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast & Islands at Education Development Center. This memorandum was prepared by REL Northeast & Islands under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0008, administered by Education Development Center. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.