As Idaho prepares to join a growing number of states that are decking out classrooms with laptops and interactive screens, increasing budgets for technology while cutting spending for teachers, some advocates concede that, in many cases, test scores don't suport the change.
"The data is pretty weak. It's very difficult when we're pressed to come up with convincing data," said Tom Vander Ark, former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. When it comes to showing results, he told The New York Times, "We better put up or shut up."
The Kyrene, Ariz. school district (serving Tempe and Phoenix) is regularly held up as an example of a successful evolution toward technological change, but its education budget has shrunk, leading to bigger classes and fewer periods of music, art and physical education.
In another study from the Univesity of Southern Maine, it was discovered that laptop programs have not been a major factor in student performance.
"Rather than being a cure-all or silver bullet, one-to-one laptop programs may simply amplify what's already occurring-for better or worse," said Bryan Goodwin, of Mid-continent Reserach for Education and Learning. Good teachers, he said, can make good use of computers, while bad teachers won't, and they and their students could wind up becoming districtacted by the technology.