Students Spending More Time On Homework, Study Finds
Secondary-school students who took part in the 1983-84 National Assessment of Educational Progress in reading and writing skills reported spending more time on homework than their counterparts in 1980.
The percentage of 17-year-olds who said they averaged between one and two hours of homework daily rose from 22.4 percent in 1979-80 to 27.5 percent last year, while those who said they completed more than two hours of homework increased from 9.2 percent to 13.9 percent over the four-year period.
According to the study, which was released last week by naep, the federally sponsored "national report card" on education, 26 percent of 17-year-olds said they spent less than one hour on homework on an average day last year compared with 23.5 percent of the same age group who reported doing that amount of homework in 1979-80.
The study cites similar increases in the amount of time 13-year-olds spend on homework, but it says that "significant numbers of students''--about 21 percent of both 13- and 17-year-olds--reported having no homework assignments on the day before they took the assessment.
Homework and Reading
The naep study also found that 11th graders who spend more time on homework read better than students who spend less. But the results are ''unclear" about the relationship between homework and the reading abilities of students in grades 4 and 8, according to the report.
It says only that "students who do not do their assigned homework have lower reading scores than students who spend time on homework."
According to the report, significantly fewer students today get away with doing no homework than was the case five years ago.
In 1979-80, some 30 percent of 13-year-olds said they had no homework assignments on the day before taking the assessment, compared with 21.1 percent of students who responded they had no assignments in 1983-84. Among 17-year-olds taking the assessment, the proportion of students receiving no homework assignments on the day before the assessment dropped from 31.5 percent in 1979-80 to 21.4 percent in 1983-84.
According to naep's executive director, Archie LaPointe, statisticians say that asking students to describe their homework assignment on the previous night is "the most accurate way to get that information on homework."
"Last night's performance is what students remember most accurately," he said. Moreover, he said, because naep assessments are administered to a nationally representative random sample of 100,000 children on numerous days throughout the school year, such a survey adequately reflects what happens on a given day.
The new naep report, which examines "home-related factors" that may be linked to cognitive development, also found that more than 40 percent of 4th-grade students, 25 percent of 8th graders, and 12 percent of 11th graders watch five hours of television or more daily.
"If our children are to realize higher reading proficiency, we must acknowledge and examine the important relationships between home and school and let parents and teachers know what we learn," according to Mr. Lapointe.
The report, a one-page bulletin to educators, is not "intended to describe cause-and-effect relationships" between home characteristics and cognitive skills, but to identify possible relationships that may have implications for policy and further research, according to officials of the assessment program.
Too Much Television?
Nonetheless, the report makes general statements supporting the thesis that too much television and too little homework inhibit the development of students' reading skills.
According to the document, students in the 8th and 11th grades who watch television for two hours or less every day read better than their counterparts who watch more.
"Five or six hours of television viewing has a clear negative impact on reading ability, but less than two hours appears to have no effect on reading," Mr. Lapointe said.
He said that the findings "do not dispute" most of the research in the field.
The study found that black students watch the most television and Hispanic students watch more television than whites; that children of parents with less education tend to watch more television than those whose parents are well educated; and that, at the 4th-grade level, boys watch more television than girls do.
According to Mr. Lapointe, there is "a real downward trend" in television viewing as students get older. More than two-thirds of 4th graders watch three or more hours of television, compared with 63 percent of 8th graders and 43 percent of 11th graders who watch that much television.
While 30 percent of 4th graders watch television daily for two hours or less in grade 4; by grade 11, about 57 percent of students report watching less than two hours of television per day.
According to the report, some 57 percent of 4th graders, 64 percent of 8th graders, and 66 percent of 11th graders reported that their mothers work outside the home.
In general, students with mothers working outside the home performed better in reading, according to naep officials. They attribute the higher scores to the fact that mothers who work outside the home typically have attained higher levels of education, and children of well-educated parents tend to read better.
A nationally representative sample of 100,000 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds took the assessment. Its major findings will be released this summer.
Data tapes for the complete results of the 1983-84 reading and writing assessment are available from Norma Norris, National Assessment of Educational Progress, Educational Testing Service, 22-T, Princeton, N.J. 98541.
The one-page report on students' home activities and characteristics can be obtained by calling (800) 223-0265 or by writing to naep, CN 6710, Princeton, N.J. 08541-6710.
More background documentation will be available within the next few weeks, according to naep officials.