A mid-year progress report on Maine's pioneering program to give all seventh graders in the state a laptop computer says the machines already are having a positive effect in the schools. The report, released this month by the Maine Education Policy Research Institute, might well have spared the program from steep budget cuts by the state Legislature to offset the state's fiscal crisis.

By an overwhelming margin, seventh graders who received laptop computers last fall say the computers have made schoolwork more fun. Teachers also give the laptops high marks, saying the computers enhance learning

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