Parental Homework Help Leads to LOWER Academic Achievement

Are you setting your child up for failure when you help him with his homework?

A 2006 study by Jung-Sook Lee and Natasha K. Bowen showed that you are...if you're White, that is. The survey crunched the numbers on survey responses of over 400 elementary students to answer this question. "T tests, chi-square statistics, and hierarchical regressions" sound academic, right?

Here is what the researchers found:

... lower levels of homework help were associated with high achievement among European Americans and with low achievement among Hispanic/Latinos. Increased levels of homework help, therefore, were associated with better achievement among Hispanic/Latinos but not European Americans....the effects of homework help among African American children were similar to those among Hispanic/Latino children. More frequent homework help was associated with better academic performance in this group, while more frequent homework help was associated with lower academic achievement among European American children.
Unsettling, isn't it? But don't be scared. This a simple error of confusing correlation with causation. The thing is, these researchers chose "homework help" for their independent variable, and "academic achievement" for their dependent variable. In other words, they said that amount of homework help causes level of academic achievement. They didn't take into account the amount of influence that level of academic achievement could have on amount of homework help. If your child was failing her classes, wouldn't you spend a little more time with her on her assignments each night?
So, why would this error only apply to the White children? Earlier in the study, researchers claimed that minority parents generally spent more time managing their children's time while at home than White parents did. Perhaps minority parents were better able to get their children on track academically, and keep them on track, before grades suffered.

SO, when designing your own research study, pay close attention to your independent and dependent variables... or you too could find some strange results to be critiqued by a blogger.

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