Special Report: eSchools Work! (Full Report part 2)

Video on demand boosts students’ math scores

June 29, 2004–Short video clips that reinforce key concepts are effective in increasing student achievement, according to a second research project. An earlier study found that video can improve learning in science and social studies. Now, brand-new research shows judiciously selected video clips also can produce statistically significant gains in algebra and geometry scores.

The new study, conducted by independent research firm Cometrika, headed by Franklin J. Boster, a distinguished-faculty-award winner at Michigan State University, was released June 21 during the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) in New Orleans.

Approximately 2,500 sixth and eighth grade students from four Los Angeles area middle schools participated in the study. Each student was given a pre-test to assess comprehension of specific California state education standards for math, and at the end of the quarter, post-test assessments were given to gauge improvement. Throughout the quarter, teachers assigned to experimental-group classes incorporated approximately 20 standards-based, core-concept video clips into their daily lessons, while teachers in control group classrooms continued with their traditional lessons.

Boster and his team found that sixth-grade students whose teachers showed them video clips during instruction improved an average of five percentage points more than students in the control group during post-testing. Eighth-grade students in Los Angeles improved an average of three percentage points more than students in the control group.

The clips came from the unitedstreaming video-on-demand (VOD) service provided by United Learning, a division of Discovery Education, whose parent company produces the Discovery Channel …

Studies validate laptop programs in U.S., Canada

From eSchool News staff and wire service reports

March 1, 2004–Two recent studies of schoolwide one-to-one computing initiatives–one in the United States and one in Canada–suggest that using laptops in the classroom can help improve students’ writing skills and bolster overall academic success. The studies come as an increasing number of states and school districts are rolling out laptop programs of their own.

In Maine, educators at the Piscataquis Community High School (PCHS) in the rural community of Guilford are touting the results of a survey released in January, demonstrating that laptops can have a significant positive impact on learning, especially for at-risk and traditionally low-achieving students. Researchers say the results might help sway lawmakers as they consider expanding to high schools the state’s current laptop program for middle school students.

And in British Columbia, another one-to-one computing study finds that students who use laptop computers to complete their writing assignments can boost their English scores by an average of 30 percent. According to the report, at least 150 middle school students at the Peace River North School District in northern British Columbia showed "vast improvements" in their writing ability last year after wireless laptops were integrated into the classroom.

This year, 90 percent of students who used the machines met the province’s writing standards. Before the laptop program, only 70 percent of students were able to meet the requirements, the study said.

The Maine study, undertaken by the independent Mitchell Institute and conducted by the Great Maine Schools Project with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is among the first to examine one-to-one computing in a high school environment. The findings reflect information gleaned from the first two years of the project.

In all, 285 students in grades 9-12 and all 26 teachers were given a laptop computer to use at home and at school. Every machine was outfitted with a wireless access card to provide access to the internet from anywhere on campus.

Seventy-nine percent of the students said laptops make lessons more interesting, and 60 percent said they felt more motivated to complete assignments using a laptop.

What’s more, most students agree that laptops have improved the quality of their schoolwork. According to the study, more than half (54 percent) of students say having a laptop has improved their grades, and nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of teachers agree that student achievement in their classes has improved since the laptop program began.

According to the study, more than 70 percent of teachers reported that the laptop program has improved student interaction with teachers and has improved interaction among students, especially those traditionally defined as "at-risk" or "low-achieving." More than three-quarters of teachers said the laptops had improved their students’ engagement, class participation, motivation, ability to work in groups, and ability to work independently …

Missouri’s ed-tech program is raising student achievement

March 13, 2002–An analysis of student test scores in Missouri offers solid evidence to suggest that using technology to facilitate an inquiry-based approach to learning can boost student achievement.

Students who participated in Missouri’s educational technology program scored "consistently higher in every subject area" on the state’s standardized test compared with students not involved in the program, according to an analysis of last year’s test results.

The study, called "Analysis of 2001 MAP Results for eMINTS Students," compared the results of the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) for more than 6,000 third- and fourth-graders.

The eMINTS program–which stands for Enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies–was found to have "a positive impact on student achievement."

eMINTS combines multimedia and computer technology, an inquiry-based approach to teaching, and extensive professional development.

Each eMINTS classroom is equipped with a teacher’s desktop computer and laptop, a scanner, a color printer, a digital camera, an interactive whiteboard, a high-lumen digital projector, and one computer for every two students. Student computers are loaded only with basic productivity software, such as Microsoft Office, and all computers have high-speed internet connections.

eMINTS teachers undergo 200 hours of professional development along with in-class coaching and mentoring over a two-year period. Teachers learn to integrate technology and emphasize critical thinking and problem-solving skills in their instruction.

Teachers are required to use technology within their district’s curriculum in ways that make learning significant, rather than just reading and reciting, said Monica Beglau, instructional program director for eMINTS.

"For example, instead of giving a lecture on gravity, a teacher [might have] students design an M&M dispenser to be used on a space shuttle," she said. Together, the class would research gravity and how astronauts eat in space, using web sites displayed on an interactive whiteboard. Students would listen to audio clips, look at pictures, and watch movies. Then, they would begin developing their own dispensers.

For the purposes of this study, researchers analyzed test scores from 85 eMINTS classrooms and 203 non-eMINTS classrooms within the same schools. The 85 eMINTS classrooms began participating in the fall of 1999 and were fully equipped and operational for two years before the students were tested in the spring of 2001.

Results show that a higher percentage of students in eMINTS classrooms scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories–the top two achievement levels out of five possible levels of performance–when compared with other students who took the MAP tests, the study found:

• In third-grade communication arts, 36 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 34.4 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 32.8 percent of students statewide.

• In third-grade science, 53.7 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 50.7 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 45.2 percent of students statewide.

• In fourth-grade mathematics, 47.1 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 39.7 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 36.7 percent of students statewide. "This difference is statistically significant, meaning that the differences in these scores are greater than could be expected to occur by chance alone," Beglau said.

• In fourth-grade social studies, 52 percent of eMINTS students scored in the "Proficient" or "Advanced" categories, compared with 41.6 percent of non-eMINTS students in the same schools and 37.7 percent of students statewide. "This difference is also statistically significant and is the largest for all areas tested," Beglau said.

Researchers also analyzed individual test scores and found that students in special statuses–such as special-education students, Title I students, and students eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program–showed substantial increases in their MAP scores when enrolled in eMINTS classrooms.

"We have students in our test groups from every category–rural, poor, urban, rich," Beglau said. "With eMINTS’ technology-based program and inquiry-based instruction, they can all achieve at the same level" …

Study: Technology boosts student performance

October 2, 2000–For advocates of classroom technology, a new study linking technology with student achievement provides welcome news: The use of educational technology in Illinois public schools has had "a small but significant impact" on student performance, according to a statistical analysis.

The Illinois State Board of Education commissioned Westat, a research firm based in Rockville, Md., to find out how the state’s classrooms use technology and what affect computers and the internet have had on student performance.

The state has spent nearly $240 million on technology grants to schools since 1995. After completing a two-and-a-half-year study, Westat concluded that Illinois’ investment in learning technologies appears to be paying off.

"We are beginning to see a relationship between technology in the classroom and student achievement," said Gary Silverstein, principal investigator for the study. "In schools where [technology] usage was the highest, students’ scores on certain subjects tended to be higher."

Westat researchers surveyed 440 elementary, middle, and high school principals twice to measure the scope and implementation of educational technology. They also surveyed 718 teachers from the same schools to find out about their use of technology in the classroom.

In addition, the researchers visited 15 schools that were making effective use of technology and five schools that weren’t. They also conducted telephone interviews with 28 teachers and 28 technology coordinators, and they analyzed the state’s standardized test scores.

The researchers’ questions focused on technology access, use, competency, student learning, productivity, best practices, and factors that influence these items.

To determine the impact of technology on student achievement, Westat statistically analyzed the following variables: poverty, access to educational technology, professional development, extent of technology use, and scores from the state’s 1998-99 standardized tests.

The statistical analysis shows in cases where teachers’ use of technology to facilitate or enhance classroom instruction was high, standardized test scores also were high.

Technology’s impact was strongest in the higher grades, but not in every subject area. It had the greatest influence on 11th-grade science and 10th-grade reading test scores.

Westat also found technology use was positively influenced by the amount of access and teacher training a school had.

The study "certainly suggests the state’s investment was a good one," Silverstein said. "There certainly was a pay-off" …

Strong media centers boost students’ test scores, study says

August 1, 2000–When K-12 students have access to a well-staffed, high-quality media center, their test scores tend to go up.

At least, that’s the conclusion of a recent study by the Library Research Service (LRS), a partnership between the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado State Library. The study suggests that providing the most skilled library staff and a state-of-the-art, interactive media center is a sound investment in student achievement.

The Colorado researchers said their findings replicated the results of similar studies done previously in Alaska and Pennsylvania.

According to one of the study’s authors, Keith Curry Lance, the survey shows an increase in reading scores on the Colorado Student Assessment Program (CSAP) as certain aspects of library media technology improve.

"How School Librarians Help Kids Achieve Standards: The Second Colorado Study," released in June, defines an "outstanding" library media program as one that includes program development, collaboration between the library media specialist and teachers, information technology resources, and frequent visits to the library media center by individual students.

Researchers found that CSAP reading scores increased in proportion to gains in the number of hours library media specialists put in for every 100 students. Other factors that led to increased CSAP scores included the number of print volumes per student, the number of periodical subscriptions per student, the number of electronic reference guides per student, and total library media expenditures per student.

"When we conducted the recent Colorado study … we found the improvement of test scores runs 18 percent higher in elementary schools with stronger programs and 10 to 15 percent higher in secondary schools," Lance said.

Staffing for media and technology programs is one key to creating a successful media center and garnering higher test scores, according to the researchers.

"The most important role the library media specialist serves is being a master teacher and a special consultant for educators," Lance said. "Schools trying to cut corners by removing a librarian add a handicap to every teacher in the school. Library media specialists are supposed to teach information literacy and provide in-service training to educators."

Another measure for "outstanding" media center status is access to technology.

The technology component of the study addressed the number of computers in the media center and throughout the school, the number of machines connected to the internet, and the number of computers with access to licensed data programs, such as Lexis-Nexis. As the number of electronic resources available to students increased, so did their test scores, researchers found …

ETS study shows computers can help … or hurt … learning

November 1, 1998–One of the nation’s first large-scale studies examining the use of computers in schools has found that, when used selectively by trained teachers, computers improve the math performance of students. But when used ineffectively–as in repetitive "drill and kill" practice–computers actually inhibit students’ math achievement.

The study, released Sept. 29, was conducted by a researcher at Educational Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, N.J., and sponsored by the Milken Exchange on Education Technology and Education Week. It offers solid evidence of what works and what doesn’t when computers are used in classrooms.

Students who spent the most time at a computer in school actually scored lower than their peers on a national math test, the study found. Students who used "drill and practice" software also scored lower. But students who used computers for simulations and real-life applications of math concepts scored higher, especially those students in middle school.

The study suggests that school districts should focus attention on professional development for teachers to make sure they know how to use computers with their students effectively …

Study links technology to student achievement: Comprehensive research documents learning gains

May 1, 1999–A study by researchers at Columbia University suggests that West Virginia’s use of educational technology has directly led to significant gains in reading, math, and language skills among the state’s K-6 students.

Commissioned by the Milken Exchange on Education Technology, the report marks the first time a long-term statewide technology program has been studied for its effectiveness in schools–and some of the first real evidence supporting the use of computers to improve basic skills in the early grades.

The study examined West Virginia’s Basic Skills/Computer Education (BS/CE) program, one of the nation’s longest-running statewide programs for implementing technology in education.

Launched in 1990, the BS/CE program now encompasses all students in grades K-6. The program consists of three components: (1) integrated learning system software that focuses on the state’s basic skills goals; (2) enough computers so that each student has easy and regular access to the software; and (3) training for teachers in the use of the software to improve student learning.

According to the West Virginia Department of Education, scores have steadily risen on state standardized tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) since the program’s initial implementation. In fact, West Virginia was one of only two states cited for three categories of improvement in NAEP math achievement in 1996, the department said.

The Milken study, led by Profs. Dale Mann of the Columbia University Teachers College and Charol Shakeshaft of Hofstra University, suggests that as much as one-third of the gains made by the state’s K-6 students can be directly attributed to the BS/CE program. The study also concludes that West Virginia’s program is more cost-effective than hiring more teachers or reducing class sizes.

The study "shows that the nay-sayers were wrong–with proper teacher training, you can use technology in the classroom to improve the achievement of all students, regardless of their gender, race, or level of income," said Superintendent of Public Instruction Henry Marockie …

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