Number 2 Pencil links to a story on free laptops for students. In Minneapolis, ninth graders in the class of 2002 were given laptops for four years. Graduation rates improved, though the story doesn’t give the percentages. Of 980 students who got laptops, an unimpressive 530 graduated four years later. Test scores didn’t rise.
Ninety-two percent of continuously enrolled students with laptops passed the Minnesota Basic Standards reading test in October 2001. By comparison, 91 percent of similarly enrolled students in other schools passed the test.
The passing rate for the math section was 85 percent for the laptop-toting students, and 87 percent for students at other schools. Students passed the writing test at the rate of 90 percent and 87 percent, respectively.
“The test scores might not give much evidence,” Kosloski said. “But we found the quality of work improved significantly.”
Such arguments don’t impress Joshua Angrist, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economics professor who has studied the effects of computer-aided education on Israeli students. While kids might enjoy their schoolwork more, there is no evidence that laptop use increases academic achievement, he said. In fact, he found that math test scores declined.
“I’m sure that kids are happy to get a free computer. I would be too,” he said. “The simple answer is that it’s not a better way to teach. It’s costly. It’s distracting. And it decreases teachers’ ability to control what’s going on in the classroom.
“Why not spend money on areas where there is evidence (of improving student achievement)?” he said. “Maybe teacher training or class-size reduction.”
Money invested in laptops is not available for other things; teachers’ energy and students’ time are finite as well.