NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Education Experts Skeptical of Microsoft Settlement

November 29, 2001

As part of its antitrust settlement, Microsoft has agreed to contribute more than a billion dollars' worth of software, computer equipment, technology training and cash to some 12,500 impoverished schools.

But education experts question whether the gift technologies will really help children from low-income families learn.

  • The 1996 Coleman report found that no clear link exists between school resources and results.
  • And study after study has shown that adding computers to otherwise unchanged schools does not raise student achievement.
  • Computers can even worsen matters by giving teachers more ways to distract children rather than teach them, a number of education specialists agree.

By contrast, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sponsors a number of promising low-tech education reform efforts -- such as replicating successful schools and replacing vast high schools with smaller units -- as well as experimenting imaginatively with technology.

Technology may be part of a successful mix, but only as an instructional tool akin to good textbooks and well-stocked library shelves.

Source: Chester E. Finn Jr. (Thomas B. Fordham Foundation), "Microsoft Settlement Won't Benefit Schools," Wall Street Journal, November 28, 2001.

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