For years now, considerable attention and resources have been dedicated to efforts to increase the use of technology, including learning software, in classrooms. A recent report, “Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings from the First Student Cohort,” from the Department of Education suggests that software and technology alone do not necessarily improve student learning. Mandated by Congress, the report was prepared by the Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance.

According to the Department of Education, the report is based upon “scientifically based research methods and control groups to focus on the impact of technology on student academic achievement.” Thirty-three districts, 132 schools, and 439 teachers participated in the study. Sixteen products were selected for the study based on public submissions and ratings by a study team and expert review panels.

Findings in the report include:

-Test scores were not significantly higher in classrooms using the reading and mathematics software products than those in control classrooms. In each of the four groups of products—reading in first grade and in fourth grade, mathematics in sixth grade, and high school algebra—the evaluation found no significant differences in student achievement between the classrooms that used the technology products and classrooms that did not.

-There was substantial variation between schools regarding the effects on student achievement. Although the study collected data on many school and classroom characteristics, only two characteristics were related to the variation in reading achievement. For first grade, effects were larger in schools that had smaller student-teacher ratios (a measure of class size). For fourth grade, effects were larger when treatment teachers reported higher levels of use of the study product.


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