The Effectiveness of One-to-One Laptop Initiatives in Increasing Student Achievement

 
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           The Effectiveness of One-to-One Laptop
         Initiatives in Increasing Student Achievement

        In this report, the Hanover Research Council provides a review of seven major
        studies designed to measure the impact of one-to-one laptop initiatives on student
        achievement, with particular emphasis placed on the areas of reading and writing.
        Throughout the report, we pay particular attention to evidence that suggests that
        participation in such programs also increases achievement for students of low
        socioeconomic backgrounds.

MARKET EVALUATION SURVEYING DATA ANALYSIS BENCHMARKING INNOVATIVE PRACTICES LITERATURE REVIEW
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                                        MARCH 2010

                                                         Executive Summary

            In response to the increased importance placed on the use of technology in today’s
            world, schools have sought out ways to better prepare students for the 21 st century
            workforce. Furthermore, in a time of increased accountability and the need to meet
            baseline standards as set forth by state policies and federal requirements such as No
            Child Left Behind, it has become increasingly important for school administrators to
            explore innovative strategies that may help boost student achievement. A number of
            early studies have provided strong evidence of a correlation between increased
            exposure to technology and improved academic achievement, and one approach that
            appears to have grown in popularity is the use of one-to-one computing initiatives, in
            which each child has access to a laptop computer.

            However, despite increased attention from leaders in K-12 education, there is still a
            lack of large-scale research studies focused on teaching and learning in ubiquitous
            computing environments. Many of the laptop initiatives launched in the early 2000s
            have just recently reached a point at which there is sufficient data for study. Only in
            the past few years have there been a number of studies beginning to look at the
            relationship between student achievement and participation in a one-to-one laptop
            program.1

            In this report, we provide a literature review on the topic of the effect of one-to-one
            or ubiquitous computing environments on student achievement, with particular focus
            on achievement in the areas of reading and writing. Subsequently, we offer a short
            discussion of laptop initiatives and their potential impact on learning for students
            from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. While there are a number of small
            anecdotal cases to discuss in regard to the relationship between laptops and the
            academic achievement of students in poverty, our research did not uncover large-
            scale studies published to date.

            This report presents case studies of seven one-to-one laptop initiatives implemented
            across the country in an effort to determine if such programs typically result in
            increased student achievement, particularly in reading and writing. Below, we present
            a list of the programs profiled in this report and a brief summary of each.

                  Stillwater Independent School District, Stillwater, MN

                            The district does not have a significant low-income population.
                            The control group for comparison was a school with a 3:1 computer
                             program in place. As such, the results compare students in the 1:1

            1Bebell, Damian and Rachel Kay. ―One to One Computing: A Summary of the Quantitative Results from the
            Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative.‖ Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jan 2010): p. 6.
            http://escholarship.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1222&context=jtla

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                           computing program with students who also have a high level of
                           technology access.
                          The authors hesitate to draw any significant conclusions from the
                           study, as too many variables exist which could have influenced student
                           achievement.
                          The authors observed only minimal increases in reading scores on
                           standardized tests for student participants in the laptop program.
                          Students who scored in the bottom quartile on standardized tests
                           before the laptop program was implemented saw the greatest gains in
                           reading scores after two years in the program.

                 Henrico School District, Richmond, VA

                          Approximately one-quarter of students qualify for federally subsidized
                           lunch programs.
                          The study did not track student achievement, but rather student
                           attitudes toward the program, with an emphasis on minorities and
                           students of low socioeconomic status.
                          The study found that students’ computer usage varied by ethnicity.
                           Students of Hispanic, African-American, and ―other‖ backgrounds
                           tended to use their computers less often than Asian and White students.
                          Students’ fidelity to the laptop initiative also varied by socioeconomic
                           background. Eighty-eight percent of students receiving free or
                           reduced-price lunches wanted the laptop program to continue.
                           Comparatively, only 77 percent of students not receiving free or
                           reduced-price lunches felt the same way.

                 Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative, Western Massachusetts

                          The control group for the study consisted of a population of
                           neighboring middle schools with similar demographics but no laptop
                           program.
                          The program was implemented specifically to increase student
                           achievement.
                          To analyze results, ten years of state standardized testing scores were
                           procured, providing a strong historical performance background to
                           determine if changes from year to year were significant.
                          After participating in the laptop program, students taking a mock
                           standardized test free-response question wrote longer responses and
                           scored higher than their peers taking a pen-and-paper exam.
                          The study concluded that student achievement has been positively
                           enhanced through the laptop program.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                MARCH 2010

                 Technology Immersion Pilot, Texas Public Schools

                          Approximately 75 percent of students in the program were classified as
                           economically disadvantaged.
                          The study focused on how different levels of program implementation
                           affected student achievement on Texas Assessment of Knowledge and
                           Skills tests.
                          The level of student access and usage was the strongest and most
                           consistent predictor of reading achievement, meaning students who
                           reported higher levels of use in school as well as at home fared better
                           on assessments than peers with low access and use scores.
                          According to the authors, the most important conclusion of the study
                           is that ubiquitous computing environments allowing students to take
                           laptops home help equalize out-of-school learning opportunities for
                           students in disadvantaged family situations and, in turn, increase
                           academic achievement.

                 Estrella School District, Southern California

                          Approximately forty percent of Estrella School District students are
                           classified as economically disadvantaged.
                          The study and control groups for the study were small, consisting each
                           of only 54 students.
                          Participation in the laptop program consistently had positive effects on
                           students’ reading and writing scores on state standardized tests.
                          The data indicates that a longer-term study may reveal more striking
                           results in achievement for the laptop group. The current study only
                           lasted two years.

                 Harvest Park Middle School, Pleasanton, CA

                          Very few students are classified as economically disadvantaged: only 1
                           percent in the laptop group and 4 percent in the school as a whole are
                           eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
                          Parents were asked to provide laptops for their children, though
                           parents who could not afford a computer could appeal to the district
                           for assistance.
                          Laptop program participation was found to have a significant influence
                           on students’ GPAs, end of course grades for language arts,
                           performance on district writing assessments, and state standardized test
                           scores.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                 MARCH 2010

                 The State of Maine

                          Despite being studied over five years, there have been no appreciable
                           changes in students’ standardized test scores since the beginning of
                           Maine’s laptop program.
                          Turning to writing abilities, researchers found that participation in the
                           laptop program greatly improved students’ skills in this area.
                          Students who self-reported a higher level of engagement with
                           technology over the course of the writing process tended to score
                           higher on state writing assessments.
                          Student writing was found to have improved regardless of whether
                           students were tested on a computer or on paper.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                         MARCH 2010

                  Case Studies of One-to-One Laptop Initiatives and the Resulting
                     Impacts on Student Achievement in Reading and Writing

            Case 1: Stillwater Independent School District, Stillwater, MN

            The Stillwater Independent School District enacted a technology-intensive program
            in its two junior high schools (grades 7-9) in the fall of 2004, aiming to increase
            students’ access to laptop computers. In the district’s two junior high schools, the
            overall enrollment figures for grades 7-9 were 1,016 and 1,084 students in the fall of
            2007. Of these students, only 11 percent at one school and 12 percent at the other
            qualified for free or reduced-price lunches.2 These figures suggest that the district’s
            student body is relatively affluent and that it may be able to rely upon a higher degree
            of parental and community involvement in its initiatives. Because of the composition
            of the student body, the district is notably less concerned with the laptop program’s
            effect on minority or low-income students than other districts.

            Stillwater initially began its laptop program in November of 2003, but made
            significant modifications for the fall of 2004. For the sake of comparison, the district
            opted to permit students at Oak-Land Junior High School (OLJHS) to take their
            computers home throughout the school year, while students attending Stillwater
            Junior High School (SJHS) could only access the laptops via mobile carts. While the
            OLJHS program was a true one-to-one initiative, the SJHS program only maintained
            a student to computer ratio of 3:1, making it much less technology-intensive and
            allowing it to serve as a control to the more developed program at OLJHS.3

            The five year one-to-one pilot program at OLGHS has largely been considered a
            success, and the current installment of the District Technology Plan indicates that
            SJHS is in the early stages of upgrading its technology initiative from a 3:1 cart-based
            system to a one-to-one computing program similar to that in place at its sister
            school.4

            After five years, the Stillwater laptop initiative has yielded a significant amount of data
            for analysis of the effects on student achievement. The University of Minnesota’s
            Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement (CAREI) assessed the
            project’s first three years of operation, with its final report published in November of
            2008. The overall goal of the study, according to its authors, was to ―collect

            2 ―Laptop Initiative Evaluation Report.‖ Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, (5 Nov 2008),
            p. 3. http://www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/sites/363874ed-8822-4032-b432-
            366a02d38aa1/uploads/Stillwater_Technology_ Report_2.pdf
            3 Ibid., p. 10.
            4 ―District Technology Plan 2008-2011.‖ Stillwater Area Public Schools, p. 119.

            http://www.stillwater.k12.mn.us/sites/363874ed-8822-4032-b432-366a02d38aa1/uploads/Stillwater2008-
            11_TechPlan.pdf

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                           6
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                           MARCH 2010

            information about the impact on teaching and learning as a result of implementing
            the laptop initiative at OLJHS and SJHS.‖5

            While the CAREI study is substantial and notable in its comprehensiveness, its
            authors did not affirm a direct connection between any improvements in student
            performance and the computing initiative, since eliminating other factors that could
            have affected student performance in order to prove causality would have been
            impossible.6

            In fact, the study’s statistical analyses indicate that there were no statistically
            significant differences between OLJHS and SJHS students’ standardized test scores in
            reading and mathematics. Increases in scores did exist between the two groups, but
            they were minimal. CAREI’s conclusion instead is that ―the results suggest that
            neither the one-to-one model nor the cart model of laptop access detract from
            students’ performance on standardized assessment measures.‖7

            While, according to CAREI, there were no significant differences between student
            achievement in the 1:1 environment versus the 3:1 environment, there are potential
            differences in achievement over time under both programs—the longer students have
            been exposed to the laptop initiatives, the higher they test on standardized
            assessments on average. The tables below present reading scores on the Measures of
            Academic Progress (MAP) assessments for each cohort of students affected by the
            laptop initiative.

            Table 1.1 presents the average percentile and average score for Reading tests
            administered to three cohorts of students. For Cohorts I and II, there is an alarming
            drop in average reading scores as students reach the 9 th grade (see Fall 2006 for
            Cohort I and Fall 2007 for Cohort II). Aside from that anomaly, scores do trend
            upwards to some degree over time. However, it is impossible to say with certainty
            whether this is attributable to the laptop program or normal student progress.

                                      Table 1.1: Average Reading Scores by Cohort8
                                                              OLJHS                      SJHS
                                                     Mean              Mean       Mean
                                                                                                Mean Score
                                                   Percentile          Score    Percentile
                             Fall 2004               67.89             222.74     66.78           222.59
                            Spring 2005              66.14             226.47     66.06           226.62
                Cohort I
                             Fall 2005               69.78             227.15     70.93           227.95
                            Spring 2006              69.48             230.28     70.63           230.91

            5 ―Laptop Initiative Evaluation Report.‖ Op. cit., p. i.
            6 Ibid., p. 15.
            7 Ibid., p. vi.
            8 Ibid. p. 97.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                  MARCH 2010

                                                         OLJHS                                  SJHS
                                                 Mean                 Mean               Mean
                                                                                                       Mean Score
                                               Percentile             Score            Percentile
                             Fall 2006           19.87                205.78             26.45           211.48
                            Spring 2007          18.83                208.45             34.27           217.83
                             Fall 2005           74.31                225.63             76.04           226.61
                            Spring 2006          76.03                229.70             76.79           230.62
                Cohort II    Fall 2006           65.17                225.06             67.67           226.28
                            Spring 2007          22.30                209.33             45.00           218.97
                             Fall 2007           22.33                205.62             15.31           203.04
                             Fall 2006           64.73                221.46             64.84           221.68
            Cohort III      Spring 2007           NA                   NA                 NA              NA
                             Fall 2007           64.06                224.16             67.45           226.25
            Source: Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, University of Minnesota

            Table 1.2 summarizes performance on the MAP Reading tests by students in the
            bottom quartile of all test-takers. As demonstrated by this data, students who were
            initially performing the poorest saw consistently increasing scores over the study
            period. Indeed, these lowest performers appear to have benefited the greatest from
            the introduction of the laptop initiatives. It should be noted that only data for Cohort
            I is offered, as data for the other cohorts is incomplete for this group.

                   Table 1.2: Reading Test Performance by Cohort I Students in the Lowest
                                                  Quartile9

                                             OLJHS                                          SJHS
                                   Median Score  Mean Score                      Median Score    Mean Score
                   Fall 2004          202.5        198.95                           203.0          201.59
                  Spring 2005         208.0        208.05                           210.5          211.36
                   Fall 2005          209.0        209.76                           212.0          211.0
                  Spring 2006         217.0        215.47                           219.0          217.15
            Source: Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, University of Minnesota

            Case 2: Henrico County Public Schools, Richmond, VA

            The Henrico County Public School District is located just outside the city of
            Richmond, Virginia. It was the largest school district to initiate one-to-one computing
            when it began its program in 2001. At present, the program is ongoing, and the
            district reports distributing over 24,000 Dell and Apple laptops to its middle and high
            school students each year through the one-to-one program. The district provides
            another 3,700 laptops for the entire instructional and administrative staff.10 Henrico
            County permits students to take their laptops home throughout the school year and

            9Ibid., p. 102.
            10―Your Administration.‖ Henrico County Public Schools.
            http://henrico.k12.va.us/administration/instruction/technology/technology.html

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                          MARCH 2010

            provides a dedicated staff to conduct student and faculty training and maintain the
            laptops.11 Overall, approximately 25 percent of the district’s 45,000 students qualify
            for free or reduced-price lunches, with the proportion being much higher in the
            comparatively poor eastern portion of the district.12

            Development Associates produced a report in 2005 which reviewed the first three
            years of the Henrico County laptop initiative. The report draws on extensive data
            obtained from student, teacher, administrator, and parent surveys. Its primary
            purpose was to capture the overall opinion of the program and its effect on student
            learning habits, tracking the program’s effect on individual demographic segments of
            the student body. The report focused heavily on the program’s impact on minority
            students and students of low socioeconomic backgrounds. In the Henrico County
            schools reviewed in the study, 53.6 percent of students are non-white and 24.7
            percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.13

            The study’s survey asked students to report on their laptop usage both at home and
            at school. The report found that the extent of reported use varies by race/ethnicity,
            but does not vary by free/reduced lunch status. To determine average usage by such
            characteristics, the study assigned a composite score based on questionnaire
            responses. The possible scores ranged from 0 (lowest use) to 46 (highest use). Table
            2.1 presents the composite scores by race/ethnicity.

                                       Table 2.1: Composite Score for Reported
                                        Computer Usage by Race/Ethnicity14

                                           Race/Ethnicity             Composite Score
                                                 Asian                    25.0
                                                 White                    24.2
                                                Hispanic                  24.0
                                           African-American               23.2
                                                 Other                    23.2
                                        Source: Development Associates

            The differences in usage by different racial and ethnic groups are notable, though not
            staggering. Another interesting aspect of the Development Associates report lies in its
            study of students’ perception of the usefulness of the laptops. There were meaningful
            differences among groups based on race/ethnicity and free/reduced lunch status.

            11 Ibid.
            12 Zucker, Andrew, et al. ―A Study of One-to-One Computer Use in Mathematics and Science Instruction at the
            Secondary Level in Henrico County Public Schools.‖ SRI International (Feb 2005), p. 1.
            http://ubiqcomputing.org/FinalReport.pdf
            13 Davis, Diana, et al. ―Henrico County Public Schools iBook Survey Report.‖ Development Associates (10 Feb

            2005), p. 13. http://www.docstoc.com/docs/19557270/HENRICO-COUNTY-PUBLIC-SCHOOLS-BOOK-
            SURVEY-REPORT
            14 Ibid., p. 17.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                            9
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                              MARCH 2010

            When asked if iBooks should be offered in the following year, 88 percent of students
            receiving free/reduced lunch indicated that they wanted them to return. Only 77
            percent of students who did not receive free/reduced lunch were similarly
            enthusiastic about continuing the laptop program. Concerning race and ethnicity,
            African-American students were most enthusiastic about the program being
            continued (89 percent), while White students were least enthusiastic (75 percent).
            Furthermore, 85 percent of Hispanic students, 83 percent of Asian students, and 82
            percent of students of other ethnicities wanted the laptop program to extend to the
            following year.15

            While the Development Associates report did not track and measure student
            achievement in light of the new laptop initiative, it is useful to note students’
            qualitative perceptions of the program. If student attitudes toward the
            implementation of new technologies are negative, it is less likely that the same
            technologies will have positive impacts on their scholastic achievement.

            Case 3: The Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative, Western Massachusetts

            The Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative was implemented across five western
            Massachusetts middle schools over three years beginning in 2005. The program’s
            overall aim was to determine the extent to which a one-to-one computing
            environment would affect teaching and learning in an otherwise traditional setting.
            The primary goal of the program was to enhance student achievement, while other
            goals had more qualitative bases, such as enhancing students’ capabilities to conduct
            independent research and improving student engagement.16

            In order to study the change in student achievement once the laptop program was
            implemented, the researchers compiled ten years’ worth of student performance
            results on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). Other
            student-level data was provided directly by the participating schools for the period
            2005 to 2008. For a control group, the researchers further gathered comparison data
            from two nearby middle schools that had similar demographics, but had not
            implemented a laptop program.17

            The study addressed two points with regard to its primary aim to measure student
            academic success under the laptop program. Specifically, the investigation addressed:

                 1) trends in the schools’ overall MCAS performance over time compared to the
                    comparison schools and statewide trends during this same period, and

            15 Ibid., p. 19.
            16 Bebell, Damian and Rachel Kay. ―One to One Computing: A Summary of the Quantitative Results from the
            Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative.‖ Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Jan 2010):
            p. 7. http://escholarship.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1222&context=jtla
            17 Ibid., p. 8.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                                10
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                         MARCH 2010

                  2) which, if any, of students’ technology uses in school or at home are related to
                     student-level performance on various MCAS measures (while statistically
                     controlling for students’ pre-BWLI academic performance using prior MCAS
                     performance).18

            The study’s overall conclusion regarding student achievement may be summarized as
            follows:

                       After three years of 1:1 implementation there was evidence that student
                       achievement had been positively enhanced through the types of educational
                       access and opportunities afforded by the 1:1 pilot program.19

            The authors support this conclusion through a discussion of teacher and
            administrator observations and beliefs, achievement trends in MCAS performance,
            and the results of a computer-writing study. The latter two aspects will be discussed
            in the subsections to follow.

            MCAS Performance

            Table 3.1 displays the percent of students passing the eighth Grade MCAS in
            mathematics from 1998 to 2008 at the state level, for the comparison group, and for
            the group of schools participating in the BWLI initiative.20

                 Table 3.1: Mathematics MCAS Pass Rates for BWLI, Comparison, and State
                                                Schools

                               1998   1999   2000   2001    2002     2003   2004   2005   2006   2007   2008
           BWLI                50%    50%    47%    57%     54%      58%    60%    55%    59%    65%    70%
           Comparison          50%    53%    58%    64%     64%      64%    68%    67%    74%    74%    76%
           State               58%    60%    61%    69%     67%      67%    71%    70%    71%    75%    76%
            Source: Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment

            Both the BWLI group and the comparison group lag behind the state average of
            passing students from the outset of the study data. However, students in the
            comparison group make steady gains in their MCAS scores, closing the gap between
            their achievement levels and the state’s by 2006. The BWLI group does not fare as
            well, seeing rising figures on average, though not as dramatic of gains as seen in the
            comparison group. By 2005 and 2006, BWLI passing rates lag significantly behind the
            state and comparison groups.

            18 Ibid., p. 13.
            19 Ibid., p. 25.
            20 Ibid. p. 32.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                          MARCH 2010

            The Spring 2007 MCAS is the first time the eighth graders taking the test had 1:1
            laptop access throughout their eighth grade year as well as at least half of their
            seventh grade year in BWLI schools. As the table above demonstrates, this cohort
            saw promising improvement in their math MCAS performance both in 2007 and
            2008, increasing 5 percent each year and beginning to close the achievement gap. As
            the authors succinctly state, ―in other words, this unprecedented two-year
            improvement in eighth grade math pass rates across BWLI settings corresponded
            with the years students participated in the 1:1 laptop program.‖21

            Although the design of the study precludes the authors’ ability to say for certain that
            participation in the laptop initiative improved test scores, it is safe to assume that one
            possible explanation for the test scores’ leap in the same year that the program was
            implemented is that 1:1 participation fostered performance improvements.

            Writing Assessment Results

            A further point of interest for the researchers was the laptop program’s impact on
            students’ writing abilities. The MCAS only tests pencil and paper writing responses,
            which some studies suggest may not appropriately evaluate the writing abilities of
            students who have grown accustomed to writing and editing using a computer. 22 In
            order to test this hypothesis, the researchers randomly assigned students to one of
            two groups: one group completed a mock MCAS writing assessment in the traditional
            format, and the other was given the prompt on a computer with all editing and
            formatting tools disabled. In order to score the tests, all responses were transcribed
            electronically to avoid scorer bias based on format. Table 3.2 presents a summary of
            student performance under both the computer and paper testing conditions.

             Table 3.2: 7th Grade Results for Students Completing the Mock MCAS Writing
                                                Assessment

                                 No. of Students    Topic Score          Conventions Score   Word Count
                   Computer            310              7.2                    5.6              388
                    Paper              141              6.6                    5.3              302
                 Source: Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment

            The seventh graders selected for testing using this mock MCAS writing assessment
            had participated in the laptop program for two years. After two years of technology-
            intensive learning, students using the laptops both wrote longer responses and scored
            higher on their open responses than students responding with paper and pencil.
            Bebell and Kay draw the conclusion that these results are strong indicators of the
            positive influence of the laptop program on students’ writing abilities:

            21   Ibid. p. 33.
            22   Ibid., p. 14.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                         MARCH 2010

                     Given these results, it is clear that pilot students, after using a laptop across
                     their sixth and seventh grade years of middle school, performed better across
                     both writing scales when allowed to complete the writing assessment using
                     their BWLI computers.23

            Case 4: Technology Immersion Pilot, Texas Public Schools

            In 2003, the Texas Legislature decided that immersing schools in technology would
            be more effective at increasing technology usage in teaching and learning than
            introducing it cyclically over time.24 The Texas Education Agency allocated $20
            million to fund technology immersion projects at high-need middle schools, dubbed
            the Technology Immersion Pilot, or TIP. At the same time, a four-year research study
            evaluated the program’s effect on teaching and learning. The study’s design included
            comparisons between 21 control schools and 21 schools participating in TIP.

            Student achievement was evaluated by performance on the statewide Texas
            Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) assessment, which was implemented in
            2003 to test students’ mastery of the state’s content standards.25 The test is criterion-
            referenced, and evidence supports its content and construct validity. The test material
            was developed by Harcourt Assessment and Pearson, with input from educators and
            the general public.

            Students affected by the pilot program were a largely diverse group and primarily
            economically disadvantaged. Table 4.1 displays the demographics of each of the three
            study cohorts.

                    Table 4.1: Demographic Characteristics of Technology Immersion
                                         Students by Cohort26

                                                             Cohort 1            Cohort 2            Cohort 3
                                                             th
                                                            8 Graders           8th Graders         7th Graders
                                                             2006-07              2007-08             2007-08
                               Number of students             2,586                 2,578               2,547
                      % Economically Disadvantaged             75.8                 75.5                76.7
                             % African American                5.8                   5.1                 4.3
                                       % Hispanic              72.7                 75.1                75.9
                                         % White               20.4                 18.8                19.2
                       % Limited English Proficient            48.6                 49.7                48.4

            23 Ibid., p. 45.
            24 Shapley, Kelly, Daniel Sheehan, Catherine Maloney, and Fanny Caranikas-Walker. ―Evaluating the Implementation
            Fidelity of Technology Immersion and its Relationship with Student Achievement.‖ Journal of Technology,
            Learning, and Assessment, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Jan 2010).
            http://escholarship.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1204&context=jtla
            25 Ibid., p. 17.
            26 Ibid., p. 14.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                           13
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                     MARCH 2010

                                                          Cohort 1        Cohort 2      Cohort 3
                                                          th
                                                         8 Graders       8th Graders   7th Graders
                                                          2006-07          2007-08       2007-08
                                          % Female          48.6             49.7          48.4
                                           % Male           51.4             50.3          51.6
                    Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

            The study focused primarily on the level of technology implementation at the
            student, teacher, administrative, and home levels when schools adopted a
            technologically immersive environment. Student achievement was then framed by
            these determined levels of implementation, to see if outcomes varied by the amount
            of instructional and other supports students received. Analyses used standardized
            implementation indicators (z scores) and predictors that measured school supports
            (Immersion Support Index), the extent of teachers’ classroom immersion (Classroom
            Immersion Index), and the extent of students’ technology access and use (Student
            Access and Use Index).27 These were analyzed against students’ TAKS scores, which
            were standardized by the authors so that the median score was 50 with a standard
            deviation of 10.

            Results of the study indicate that only Immersion Support was a positive predictor
            for Cohort 1 eighth graders’ reading achievement, after controlling for prior student
            achievement, demographic characteristics, school poverty, and classroom immersion.
            Cohort 2 students with language arts teachers with average levels of Classroom
            Immersion had slightly higher TAKS reading scores over students with teachers with
            below average Classroom Immersion scores.28

            The level of student access and technology use was a stronger and more consistent
            predictor of reading achievement. Higher levels of student access and use had a
            consistently positive effect on TAKS reading assessments for all three cohorts.
            Additionally, study results found that home learning, or the amount of time a student
            spent completing school-related tasks on their laptop at home, was ―the strongest
            implementation predictor of reading achievement.‖29

            Overall, the study shows that technology immersion through one-to-one computing
            initiatives has a positive relationship with student achievement in reading. The most
            important point from the study for the purposes of this report is the finding
            regarding the importance of home learning. Students in the study were largely
            economically disadvantaged and members of minority groups (see Table 4.1). Thus,
            the finding for the importance of home learning underscores the role that individual
            student laptops play in promoting ubiquitous learning and closing the ―digital divide‖
            by equalizing the out-of-school learning opportunities for students in disadvantaged

            27 Ibid., p. 34.
            28 Ibid., p. 37.
            29 Ibid., p. 40.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                         MARCH 2010

            family situations. Indeed, ―individual student laptops, in contrast to laptops on carts
            or computers available in libraries, labs, and classrooms, expanded where and how
            learning occurred.‖30

            Case 5: Estrella School District, Southern California

            Estrella School District, a pseudonym used to represent a school district in southern
            California, is a moderate size suburban school district with approximately 14,000 K-8
            students.31 The district features a diverse student population: 47 percent Hispanic, 28
            percent White, 20 percent Asian, and 5 percent in the ―other,‖ multi-ethnic, or
            unstated category. The district is also economically diverse, with 40 percent of
            students participating in the free or reduced-price lunch program.

            ESD implemented its 1:1 laptop initiative in 2004, choosing two middle schools and
            two elementary schools to participate. School selection was based on district
            administrators’ hope to test the program at both ends of the economic spectrum. The
            subsequent study sought to measure the effects of the 1:1 laptop program on student
            achievement on the California Standards Test (CST) English Language Arts section.
            The CST is a criterion-referenced test designed to allow students to demonstrate their
            mastery of California’s academic standards for their grade level. The CST scores are
            scaled to a normal distribution in the range of 150 to 600 points, with 350 as the
            threshold for ―passing‖ or adequate performance, and are stable from year to year,
            facilitating comparison over multiple years.32

            The study group consisted of 54 fourth grade students participating in the 1:1 laptop
            program and 54 students in the non-laptop control group. The authors analyzed
            English Language Arts (ELA) total and subtest scores to identify the effects of the
            laptop program, as well as a number of background characteristics, including parent
            education level, ethnicity, and gender. It should be noted that 12 students in the
            treatment group were also participants in a gifted and talented program, whereas
            none of the control group students were identified as such.33

            Table 5.1 summarizes the study’s findings regarding the laptop and non-laptop
            groups’ performances on the CST ELA section as well as on each ELA subtest.

            30 Ibid., p. 49.
            31 Suhr, Kurt, David Hernandez, Douglas Grimes, and Mark Warschauer. ―Laptops and Fourth-Grade Literacy:
            Assisting the Jump Over the Fourth Grade Slump.‖ Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, Vol. 9, No. 5
            (Jan 2010): p. 12. http://escholarship.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1207&context=jtla
            32 Ibid., p. 13.
            33 Ibid., p. 14.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                           15
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                 MARCH 2010

                                         Table 5.1: Changes in ELA Scores:
                                          Laptop and Non-Laptop Groups

                                                           Year 1        Year 2   Combined
                                 Total ELA
                                    Laptop           19.56%   2.19%                21.74%
                                    Non-laptop       26.67% -16.83%                 9.83%
                                    Difference       -7.11% 19.02%                 11.91%
                                 ELA Subtests
                                    Literary Response and Analysis
                                        Laptop       -0.05%   3.76%                3.70%
                                        Non-laptop   -0.04%   2.76%                2.72%
                                        Difference   -0.01%   1.00%                0.98%
                                    Writing Strategies
                                        Laptop        4.37%   1.89%                6.26%
                                        Non-laptop    4.57%   0.19%                4.76%
                                        Difference   -0.20%   1.70%                1.50%
                                Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

            In the first year of the program, both laptop and non-laptop groups made significant
            progress on their total ELA scores, with non-laptop students actually seeing a larger
            gain than their laptop counterparts. In Year 2, however, the non-laptop students lost
            most of their previous year’s gain, falling almost 17 percent, while progress with the
            laptop group slowed to a statistically insignificant 2 percent. Overall both groups saw
            notable gains in their ELA achievement, and the difference between groups was
            ultimately statistically insignificant.34 Achievement on the subtests presents a similar
            picture. There appears to be very little difference in scores between the laptop and
            non-laptop students.

            The authors further analyzed the test results using multiple regression analyses.
            Interestingly, none of the independent variables—parent education level (a proxy for
            socioeconomic status), gifted and talented designation, or laptop participation—were
            significant predictors of improved achievement on the CST. However, participation
            in the laptop program consistently had positive effects on change in ELA score,
            literary response and analyses scores, and writing strategies scores. 35

            In fact, analysis of variance (ANOVA) and multivariate analysis of variance
            (MANOVA) tests showed that after Year 2, ―laptop students significantly
            outperformed non-laptop students in their change scores for literary response and
            analysis and writing strategies.‖36 Table 5.2 presents the means and standard

            34 Ibid., p. 28.
            35 Ibid., p. 32.
            36 Ibid., p. 36.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                    MARCH 2010

            deviations of changes in laptop and non-laptop students’ CST ELA total scores and
            subtest scores to illustrate this finding.

                      Table 5.2: Changes in Laptop and Non-Laptop Students’ ELA Scores,
                                        Means and Standard Deviations

                                              Year 1               Year 2          Combined
            ELA test or subtest     M        SD                  M      SD        M        SD
            Total scale score
                     Non-laptop    26.67    29.64  -16.83                28.35   9.83       40.41
                         Laptop    19.56    29.35   2.19                 34.33   21.74      32.43
            Word analysis and vocabulary development
                     Non-laptop    -1.11    2.23    -3.70                2.59    -4.81      2.84
                         Laptop    -1.83    1.89    -3.30                1.55    -5.13      1.92
            Reading comprehension
                     Non-laptop    1.19     2.49    -1.39                2.51    -0.20      2.74
                         Laptop    0.87     1.66    -0.44                2.38     0.43      2.54
            Literary response and analysis
                     Non-laptop    -0.04    1.48    2.76                 2.29    2.72       2.30
                         Laptop    -0.06    1.65    3.76                 1.62    3.70       1.95
            Written and oral language conventions
                     Non-laptop    3.85     2.74    0.20                 2.18    4.06       2.58
                         Laptop    4.17     2.08    -0.35                2.28    3.81       1.96
            Writing strategies
                     Non-laptop    4.57     2.20    0.19                 2.47    4.76       2.90
                         Laptop    4.37     2.32    1.89                 2.57    6.26       2.44
            Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

            The authors note that the generalizability of their study is limited due to a number of
            factors. First, they could not control for some variables and school characteristics
            which may have influenced students’ achievement, such as funding, school size,
            teacher education level and experience, and pedagogy. Additionally, there was
            insufficient representation from ethnic groups aside from White and Asian to check
            for differences in performance that might be attributable to race or ethnicity. Finally,
            and perhaps most importantly, the length of the study was insufficient to draw long-
            term conclusions. Because student performance was better over the two years of the
            study versus over just the first year, it is possible that a longer study would discover
            even more positive outcomes as teachers and students continue to learn to make
            better use of the laptops. Nevertheless, ―the study adds to an emerging body of
            literature suggesting that laptop use over multiple years may have a small positive
            effect on literacy test score outcomes.‖37

            37   Ibid., p. 39.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                      17
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                        MARCH 2010

            Case 6: Harvest Park Middle School, Pleasanton, CA

            Harvest Park Middle School in Pleasanton, California serves a suburban, increasingly
            diverse population in a highly educated, high-income community. The school’s laptop
            program, established in 2001, was implemented as the school strived to maintain or
            improve its already-high standards in the face of rapid enrollment growth. The laptop
            program was the result of a partnership between the school and a number of local
            high-tech businesses.38

            Unlike a number of other laptop programs, participants in Harvest Park’s laptop
            initiative were self-selected. Parents purchased laptops for their children to use.
            Parents who were unable to do so for financial reasons but whose children wished to
            participate in the program were able to appeal to a Laptop Advisory Committee
            (LAC) for assistance. The LAC has not denied an application for a loaner laptop to
            date. The total enrollment and demographic characteristics of students in the school
            are presented in Tables 6.1 and 6.2, respectively.

                 Table 6.1: Laptop Immersion Program and Total Enrollment by Grade39

                        Grade           Laptop Program Enrollment                Total School Enrollment
                          6                         91                                     353
                          7                         93                                     361
                          8                         75                                     371
                        Total                      259                                    1085
                   Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

                      Table 6.2: Student Demographics: Laptop Immersion Program
                                           and School-Wide40

                               Student Demographics                      Laptop         School-wide
                           Ethnicity
                                         Asian                             14%               16%
                                        Filipino                           1%                 2%
                                   Hispanic/Latino                         6%                 7%
                                   African American                        0%                 1%
                                         White                             79%               74%
                           Gender
                                        Female                             44%               49%
                                         Male                              56%               51%
                           Gifted and Talented                             27%               24%

            38 Cengiz Gulek, James and Hakan Demirtas. ―Learning With Technology: The Impact of Laptop Use on Student
            Achievement.‖ Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, Vol. 3, No. 2 (Jan 2005).
            http://escholarship.bc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1052&context=jtla
            39 Ibid., p. 9.
            40 Ibid., p. 10.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                          18
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                        MARCH 2010

                                     Student Demographics                 Laptop          School-wide
                                 Special Education                          5%               10%
                                 Economically Disadvantaged                 1%                4%
                                 English Language Learner                   1%                3%
                                 Parent Education Level
                                         Graduate School                   42%               37%
                                         College Graduate                  46%               44%
                                          Some College                     10%               12%
                                      High School Graduate                 2%                 6%
                                    Not High School Graduate               0%                 1%
                                 Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

            Demographic indicators show no more than a five percent difference between laptop
            and non-laptop students, indicating demographic profiles for the two groups are
            similar and appropriate for comparison.

            The assessment of Harvest Park’s laptop immersion program sought to answer four
            outcomes-based questions in regard to student achievement:

                        Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ grade point averages?
                        Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ end-of-course grades?
                        Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ essay writing skills?
                        Does the laptop program have an impact on students’ standardized test
                         scores?

            To address the first question, the authors gathered information on students’ grade
            point averages for the 2003-2004 academic year, three years after the laptop
            program’s implementation. They found an average difference between laptop and
            non-laptop students’ GPAs of 0.29, with the greatest difference occurring amongst
            sixth grade students (a difference of 0.37).41

            To evaluate the second research objective, the authors accessed the end-of-course
            grades for all students in English Language Arts and Mathematics at the middle
            school for the 2003-2004 academic year and separated them into laptop and non-
            laptop groups for comparison. The results for English Language Arts are presented in
            Table 6.3.

            41   Ibid., p. 13.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                          19
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                     MARCH 2010

                         Table 6.3: End of Course Grades by Grade Level and Program for
                                             English Language Arts42

                 End of                Grade 6                Grade 7                  Grade 8
                 Course          Laptop Non-Laptop      Laptop Non-Laptop        Laptop Non-Laptop
                 Grade
                   A              50%      38%            39%            23%       36%        39%
                   B              42%      32%            45%            33%       54%        40%
                   C              7%       21%            11%            28%       10%        17%
                   D              1%        6%            3%              9%       0%          3%
                   F              0%        3%            2%              7%       0%          1%
            Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

            There is a significant difference in achievement between the laptop and non-laptop
            groups as demonstrated by the grades above. For sixth graders, 92 percent of
            students in the laptop program earned an A or B in ELA, compared with only 70
            percent of non-laptop students. The difference is even greater amongst seventh
            graders, where 84 percent of laptop students earned an A or B, compared with 56
            percent of non-laptop students. The gap closes significantly by eighth grade, though
            there is still a large discrepancy between the two groups: 90 percent of laptop
            students earned an A or B compared with 79 percent of non-laptop students. Across
            all years, there were fewer F grades amongst the laptop students compared to non-
            laptop students.

            The study’s third research objective, to determine whether participation in the laptop
            program improved students’ writing abilities, was measured by assessing the results of
            a 2004 district writing assessment administered to all sixth and eighth grade students.
            Table 6.4 presents the distribution of student scores on the writing assessment for
            laptop students, Harvest Park as a whole, and the district average.

                    Table 6.4: 2004 District Writing Assessment Results by Grade Level and
                                              Program Enrollment43
                                              Score of 4         Score of 3    Score of 2   Score of 1
                                             (Advanced)           (Solid)      (Limited)    (Minimal)
                    Laptop Program              17%                78%            5%           0%
            Grade 6 Harvest Park                16%                68%            16%          1%
                    District Average             9%                72%            19%          2%
                    Laptop Program              15%                76%            9%           0%
            Grade 8 Harvest Park                17%                66%            17%          2%
                    District Average            16%                68%            16%          2%
            Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

            42   Ibid., p. 14.
            43   Ibid., p. 15.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                       20
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                               MARCH 2010

            Fewer eighth grade laptop students scored a ―4‖ on the writing assessment than their
            school and district peers, though more laptop students scored in the ―solid‖ range
            (score of 3), which ultimately yielded a smaller proportion of laptop students in the
            lowest scoring categories (scores of 1 and 2). For sixth graders, the highest-scoring
            group closely matched their school peers, and together all laptop students far
            outperformed their district peers. Overall, laptop students outperformed both their
            school and district peers: 95 percent of laptop sixth graders achieved a 3 or 4,
            compared with 84 percent of school peers and 79 percent of district peers, while 91
            percent of laptop eighth graders earned a 3 or 4, compared with 83 percent of school
            peers and 84 percent of district peers. The laptop program may not consistently push
            performance to its highest possibilities, but it does appear to have some bearing on
            overall student achievement.

            The final research question concerned students’ performance on state standardized
            tests. The authors examined scores on California Standards Tests for both
            Mathematics and English Language Arts given to public school students from grades
            two through eleven. As demonstrated in Table 6.5, the scores reveal notably higher
            achievement levels for students in the laptop program than those who were not.

                 Table 6.5: 2004 CST English Language Arts Results: Percent of Students
                                    Scoring Proficient or Advanced44
                                                                 English Language Arts
                                              Laptop                      80%
                                  Grade 6
                                              Non-Laptop                  68%
                                              Laptop                      83%
                                  Grade 7
                                              Non-Laptop                  64%
                                              Laptop                      76%
                                  Grade 8
                                              Non-Laptop                  56%
                                 Source: Journal of Technology, Learning and Assessment

            In order to provide some perspective, the authors accessed baseline assessment
            results for 2000-2001, the year before the first cohort of laptop students entered the
            program. When the 2000-2001 data is compared with the following year’s data, after
            students had participated in the laptop program for one year, there were only minor
            differences between laptop and non-laptop students across most areas. With the
            exception of the CST ELA test, laptop students saw gains in test performance across
            the study year.45 For Cohort 2, when the same analysis was performed, students saw
            the strongest gains in CST ELA test results. For Cohort 3, students saw declines in
            average performance except for the District Writing Test, on which both groups of
            students performed notably better.46

            44 Ibid., p. 17.
            45 Ibid., p. 19.
            46 Ibid., p. 24.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                             MARCH 2010

            This study has a number of shortcomings. First, the authors only examine one year of
            data for all objectives except achievement on state assessments. They do not present
            historical data to show that student achievement has actually improved over time,
            only drawing conclusions by comparing one group of students with another across
            one year. No other control groups were created, and no analysis was performed based
            on economic status, parents’ level of education, or race/ethnicity to determine if
            variables other than participation in the laptop program had any bearing on student
            achievement. For the writing program analysis, it was not stated whether the district
            assessments were offered on a computer, with pencil and paper, or as a mixture of
            both. As other studies have noted, students who learn to improve and hone their
            writing and editing skills on a computer may be at a disadvantage when suddenly
            asked to perform with pencil and paper on a standardized test.

            Case 7: The State of Maine

            Beginning in the fall of 2002, all Maine seventh and eighth graders were provided
            laptop computers as part of a statewide technology initiative aimed at improving
            performance in state middle schools.47 The program has impacted over 100,000
            Maine middle school students and their teachers. A research brief was subsequently
            prepared by researchers at the Maine Education Policy Research Institute to
            determine the laptop program’s impact on students’ writing abilities.

            Given the unprecedented scope of Maine’s laptop initiative, many expected to see
            significant improvements in student achievement, particularly on standardized tests.
            However, student achievement on the eighth grade Maine Education Assessments
            (MEA) ―has not changed appreciably since the inception of the laptop program.‖48
            However, the authors note three possible reasons for this lack of expected
            improvement: first, it takes time to see the results of educational reforms when
            studying student achievement, so perhaps the program has not been in place long
            enough for students and teachers to be effectively and efficiently utilizing the
            technology. Second, the method of implementation may have impacted the results, as
            there was no central control over how the program was implemented at each school.
            Third, and most importantly according to the authors, is that MEA assessments are
            ill-equipped to measure the 21st century skills developed in ubiquitous computing
            environments.49

            Silvernail and Gritter decided to focus on the laptop program’s effect on students’
            writing abilities, as numerous researchers prior had pointed toward a significant
            correlation between technology adoption and improved writing skills and processes.

            47 Silvernail, David and Aaron Gritter. ―Maine’s Middle School Laptop Program: Creating Better Writers.‖ Maine
            Education Policy Research Institute, University of Southern Maine (2008).
            http://www.usm.maine.edu/cepare/Impact_on_Student_Writing_Brief.pdf
            48 Ibid., p. 4.
            49 Ibid., p. 4.

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                               22
DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                        MARCH 2010

            The authors compared MEA writing scores in 2000, the year before the program’s
            implementation, with scores in 2005. Table 7.1 presents the results.

                          Table 7.1: MEA Writing Scores, Average and Standard Deviation,
                                                  2000 and 2005

                                             Students         Score           S.D.    Effect Size
                                  2000        16,557          534.11          10.61
                                                                                          0.32
                                  2005        16,251          537.55          9.17
                                Source: Maine Education Policy Research Institute

            The Effect Size was then calculated, which is a measure designed to quantify the
            magnitude of differences between the average scores. The Effect Size in this case was
            0.32, or approximately 1/3 of a standard deviation: ―put another way, an average
            student in 2005 scored better than approximately two-thirds of all students in
            2000.‖50 Additionally, the study revealed a 12.3 percent increase in the number of
            students meeting or exceeding writing proficiency between 2000 and 2005.

            A particularly interesting finding of the Maine study is that students’ performance on
            the writing section of the MEA correlated with self-reported laptop-related writing
            activities. Table 7.2 shows how the writing scores relate to four levels of student
            engagement with writing on the laptop, demonstrating that higher levels of laptop use
            in the writing process result in statistically significant writing score increases.

                                Table 7.2: Type of Laptop Use in Writing and MEA Scores51

                                 Survey Question                       Number of        Scale Score
                            Stem            Responses                   Students       X         S.D.
                                         Drafts and final copy           11,593       538.8      8.97
                        How do you use
                                           Final copy only                3,413       537.7      8.89
                        your laptop for
                                             Drafts only                   233        533.0      9.74
                           writing?
                                              Not at all                   642        532.0      9.63
                       Source: Maine Education Policy Research Institute

            Another key finding of the study indicates that students’ writing abilities not only
            improve when tested using a computer, but also on traditional paper tests. This claim
            refutes findings of earlier studies which claimed that paper testing puts laptop
            students at a disadvantage as they have learned to compose and edit using a
            computer. In 2005, some students completed the MEA assessment online, while
            others took the traditional paper test. Table 7.3 presents each group’s average scores.

            50   Ibid., p. 6.
            51   Ibid., p. 7.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                  MARCH 2010

                           Table 7.3: MEA 2005 Writing Scale Scores by Mode of Writing52

                                Writing Sample      No. of Students       Average Score    s.d.
                                     Online              3,251               537.68       10.52
                                   Longhand             13,000               537.52       8.80
                            Source: Maine Education Policy Research Institute

            As is evident, students’ scores are nearly identical, and there is no statistically
            significant difference between the scores of the two groups. In other words, the
            authors state, ―writing improved regardless of the writing test medium.‖53

            Five years after the initial implementation of the laptop program, it was clear that it
            had had a positive impact on students’ writing abilities. Students’ scores on Maine’s
            statewide standardized test significantly improved, and students’ writing abilities
            improved the more extensively they used their laptops in developing and producing
            written work products. It was evident as well that the initiative produced better
            writers in general, not only students who could write better using a computer.

            52   Ibid., p. 9.
            53   Ibid.

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DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION PRACTICE                                                                                       MARCH 2010

                 Improving Achievement for Students of Low Socioeconomic Status

            The term ―digital divide‖ refers to the disparity between students who have easy
            access to computers and use them often and those students who lack such access.
            While the term does not specifically refer to students of minority backgrounds or
            students of low socioeconomic status, these groups are often those that suffer the
            greatest from limited access to technology. A 2005 study by eSchool News found that
            3 million young people remain without Internet access, and many of those come
            from financially disadvantaged backgrounds, a disproportionate number of which are
            African-American.54 One of the main issues in the study of laptop programs and their
            effect on student achievement is that these initiatives largely occur in private schools
            or upper-income public schools. As one researcher noted, ―there has been very little
            research done to study [1:1 laptop programs’] effectiveness for low-income
            students.‖55

            Widespread use of technology in the classroom may help close the gap between
            students of varying economic backgrounds. Starting early is key, as once students
            reach high school, they may feel left behind. As one teacher observes, ―at-risk kids
            aren’t able to use technology every day and haven’t had exposure to it at home and
            have to play catch up to learn the technology as well as the lessons. When they’re
            concentrating so much on the tool rather than the lesson, it costs them time and
            presents a steep learning curve.‖56 The earlier kids are exposed to technology and
            learn to operate laptops efficiently, the less of a concern this learning curve will be as
            students progress in school.

            Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds are at a particular disadvantage when
            laptop initiatives ask that parents purchase or lease students’ computers. This may
            lead to a lower participation rate of low-SES students in resulting studies on academic
            achievement, meaning that their potential as a group in an immersive technology
            environment has not been fully explored. At Community School District Six in New
            York City, for instance, parents are asked to pay a monthly fee equivalent to half of
            the cost of the students’ annual laptop lease agreement, despite the fact that 94
            percent of its 30,000 students live at or below the poverty level. At Clovis Unified
            School District in Fresno, California, students whose parents provide them with
            laptop computers are put into immersive environments in which all peers also have
            laptops, which may leave students who are economically disadvantaged at a further
            educational disadvantage as they are removed from a large group of their peers.57

            54 ―Critical Issue: Using Technology to Improve Student Achievement.‖ North Central Regional Educational
            Laboratory, Learning Point Associates. http://www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/methods/technlgy/te800.htm
            55 Hadfield, Nicholas. ―Laptop Programs: Rapid Change and the Search to Justify the Money.‖ P. 8.

            http://www.scribd.com/doc/18074/Laptop-Programs-The-failure-of-success
            56 Long, Cindy. ―Mind the Gap.‖ National Education Association (2008). http://www.nea.org/home/9302.htm
            57 Carter, Kim. ―Laptop Lessons: Exploring the Promise of One-to-One Computing.‖ Tech & Learning (15 May

            2001). http://www.techlearning.com/article/18520

© 2010 The Hanover Research Council – District Administration Practice                                                         25
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