Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Home Computers

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Home Computers

Article excerpt

Around the country and throughout the world, politicians and education activists have sought to eliminate the "digital divide" by guaranteeing universal access to home computers, and in some cases to high-speed internet service. But, according to a study by scholars at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy, these efforts would actually widen the achievement gap in math and reading scores. Students in grades 5 through 8, particularly those from disadvantaged families, tend to post lower scores once these technologies arrive in their home.

Professors Jacob Vigdor and Helen Ladd analyzed responses to computer-use questions included on North Carolina's mandated End-of-Grade tests (EOGs). Students reported how frequently they use a home computer for schoolwork, watch TV, or read for pleasure. The study covers 2000 to 2005, a period when home computers and high-speed internet access expanded dramatically. By 2005, broadband access was available in almost every zip code in North Carolina, Vigdor says.

The study had several advantages over previous research that suggested similar results, Vigdor says. The sample size was large--numbering more than 150,000 individual students. The data allowed researchers to compare the same children's reading and math scores before and after they acquired a home computer, and to compare those scores to those of peers who had a home computer by fifth grade and to test scores of students who do not have a home computer. …

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