NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

LAPTOP LOWDOWN: IF STUDENTS CAN'T READ, WHAT USE IS THE INTERNET?

February 8, 2007

In his State of Education address, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne unveiled an expanded pilot program that would give students at seven schools personal laptop computers.  The program would cost approximately $5 million.  "Teachers can better prepare students for the digital economy in a context where every student has his or her own laptop," said Horne.

Unfortunately, having access to resources isn't always enough, says Arwynn Mattix, a policy analyst at the Goldwater Institute:

  • Despite having text books readily available, only 24 percent of fourth graders and 23 percent of eighth graders in Arizona scored proficient on the highly respected NAEP reading exam.
  • Horne's long-term vision is that every student in the state above a certain age will have his or her own laptop.
  • With about 515,000 students enrolled in grades 7-12 last year, and enrollment climbing, the plan could cost well over $515 million (assuming elementary students don't receive laptops) or ten percent of current operating expenses for k-12 education.

Rather than allocate one tenth of the K-12 budget for laptops, legislators should focus on ensuring Arizona students have basic literacy and numeracy skills -- skills that are essential if we want students to use laptops for anything beyond video games and music downloads, says Mattix.

Source: Arwynn Mattix, "Laptop Lowdown: If Students Can't Read, What Use is the Internet?" Goldwater Institute, February 7, 2007.

 

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