NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Will Computers Help Solve Education Woes?

December 15, 1998

Spending for computers and Internet links in classrooms is surging, despite the lack of research on the effect of high tech on student performance.

  • The market-research firm Quality Education Data estimates that in the 1997-98 school year elementary and high schools spent $5.2 billion on computers, Internet access and network technology -- up over 60 percent from just three years earlier.
  • According to Education Week, three out of four public school classrooms have at least one computer; more than half of classrooms are connected to a local area network; nearly half are connected to the Internet; and 85 percent of schools have some Internet access.
  • After comparing math scores of fourth-graders and eighth- graders, Educational Testing Service researcher Harold Wenglinsky concluded that how students use computers is often more important than how often they use them.
  • William Rukeyser, director of the research group Learning in the Real World, has found the use of educational technology works better with older students who have a solid educational foundation to start with.

Experts point out that costs are an important consideration. Two years ago, a RAND Corp. study estimated it would cost between $8 billion and $20 billion a year over five years to equip all classrooms with multimedia, networked computers.

Source: Anna Bray Duff, "Can High Tech Save Schools?" Investor's Business Daily, December 15, 1998.


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