After making the controversial decision to cut teacher pay and 65 staff members -- including 37 teachers -- in favor of providing students with a laptop, Mooresville public schools in North Carolina ranks third in test scores and second in graduation rates, the New York Times reports.
Three years ago, Superintendent Mark Edwards elected to issue laptops to 4,400 fourth through 12th graders in five schools, using funds that would otherwise have gone to paying teachers. At the time, 73 percent of Mooresville’s students tested proficiently in math, reading and science. Today, that number is up to 89 percent, to complement an 11-percent increase in the district’s graduation rate from 2008-11.
These gains have been made possible despite Mooresville ranking 100th out of 115 North Carolina school districts in per-pupil spending at $7,415.89 per year.
According to the Times, the new initiative is costing the district just over $1 million.
Though the loss of 37 teaching jobs resulted in larger class sizes -- now 30 instead of 18 -- district officials told the paper the technology helps teachers manage their classes more efficiently.
According to the Wall Street Journal, all of the students’ textbooks, notes, learning materials and assignments are computerized so that parents and teachers can track their progress in real time. The pace of the computer-learning program can also be adjusted depending on a student’s understanding of the subject. As Technapex points out, top-performing students are consistently challenged with new curricular materials that appear on their laptops, allowing the program to cater to different learning styles.
"Our teachers are better informed, our parents are better informed, and our students are understanding what they're doing and why they're doing it,” Edwards said of the data system, also telling the Journal digital learning hasn’t increased costs.
A 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Education found that online learning is one of the fastest growing trends in educational uses of technology. Still, there has been much debate in recent years concerning whether computerized learning as a substitute for traditional instruction is helping or hurting students.