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1999 Evaluation Report, Year 3, Middle School Laptop Program, Beaufort County School District, 1998-1999

Date: 1999
Author(s): Kenneth R. Stevenson
Affiliation: Department of Educational Leadership and Policies University of South Carolina
Keywords: achievement, middle school, low income, gender, race, attendance


During school year 1998/99 the Beaufort County School District completed the third year of the Middle School Laptop Project. The project began in the 1996/97 school year. At that time sixth graders at the district's three middle schools were the participants in the program. The project was expanded in the 1997/98 school year to include the new cohort of sixth graders that year. Thus, students in both grades six and seven were participants. For the 1998/99 academic year, the laptop project was expanded yet again to include the new cohort of sixth graders. As a result, the laptops were now in use at all three grades at the middle schools. At this point, the original sixth grade laptop users (1996/97) were now in the eighth grade, completing their third year of use of the computers.

Key Findings:

* Both teachers and students continued to respond positively regarding the impact of the laptop computer project. However, third year student participants were less positive than other groups, as were first year teacher participants.

* Students using the laptops continued to score well on standardized achievement tests. The third year users in particular maintained their scoring advantage over non-users.

* Laptops were most often used in English/language arts, history/social studies, and science. They were not used to any extent in mathematics classes. Amount of use was also dependent on grade. Third year students, who were eighth graders, reported that their teachers, who were first year participants, used the laptops in classroom activities less than other teachers.

* Teachers personally used the computers most often for lesson planning or research.

* Students most often used the laptops for homework, classroom note taking, and completing writing assignments.

* Two of the biggest problems identified with the project were dispersion of laptop students - mixing laptop and non-laptop participants in the same class, and the mechanical reliability of the laptops. Teachers also indicated that lack of keyboarding skills among students was a problem, though students disagreed.

*Both students and teachers thought that use of the laptops would have more impact ultimately on high school academic performance than middle school achievement.

* Students who have traditionally not found success in schools, who participated in the laptop project, continued to perform better than those who did not. As was the case in 1997/98, free/reduced lunch students using laptops scored approximately the same on standardized achievement tests as students not on free/reduced lunch who were not laptop participants.

* Female students participating in the laptop project scored as well as male participants on achievement tests.

* Year 3 evaluation results supported continuation of the laptop program.

* Though the project was recommended for continuation, recommendations were made for continuing to improve it. These included: continued staff development, continued efforts to provide all students with laptops, continued efforts to engage historically unsuccessful students in laptop use, study of why eighth grade student and first year teacher participants are less enthusiastic about laptops than others, and study of why some schools appear to generate different academic outcomes related to laptop use than others.

Source Article: http://www.beaufort.k12.sc.us/district/evalreport3.htm