While better working memory, attention, and control are associated with higher academic achievement, so far there’s no evidence that improving executive function causes a greater boost in academics than could be explained by other factors, according toof 67 studies of executive function and achievement among children ages 2 to 18.
The studies did find evidence that it is possible to improve executive skills using a school-based program. They also found that higher executive function was associated with higher academic performance at any given point in time and predicted future high performance. But that correlation was weaker once the researchers controlled for student background characteristics, such as IQ. And there was no stronger correlation for any of the individual parts of executive function or with some subject areas more than others.
A version of this article appeared in the March 18, 2015 edition of Education Week as Science of Learning