April 5, 2007 in Nation/World

Study finds no benefit to educational software

Amit R. Paley Washington Post
 

WASHINGTON – Educational software, a $2 billion-a-year industry that has become the darling of school systems across the country, has no significant impact on student performance, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education.

The long-awaited report amounts to a rebuke of educational technology, a business whose growth has been spurred by schools desperate for ways to meet the testing mandates of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. The technology – ranging from snazzy video-game-like programs played on Sony PlayStations to more rigorous drilling exercises used on computers – has been embraced by low-performing schools as an easy way to boost student test scores.

The study, released Wednesday night, is expected to further inflame the debate about education technology as lawmakers consider whether to renew No Child Left Behind this year.

Industry officials played down the study and attributed most of the problems to poor training and execution of the programs in classrooms. Mark Schneiderman, director of education policy at the Software and Information Industry Association, said that other research trials have proven that the technology works, although he said that those trials were not as large or rigorous as the federal government’s.

“This may sound flip or like we’re making excuses, but the fact is that technology is only one part of it, and the implementation of the technology is critical to success,” said Schneiderman, whose group represents 150 companies that produce educational software.

The study, mandated by Congress when it passed No Child Left Behind in 2002, evaluated 15 reading and math products used by 9,424 students in 132 schools during the 2004-05 school year. It is the largest study to compare students who received the technology with those who did not, as measured by their scores on standardized tests. There were no statistically significant differences between students who used software and those who did not.


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