Utterly Meaningless » Blog Archive » MORE ON MICHIGAN LAPTOPS

    Filed at 6:44 am under by dcobranchi

    Former superintendent Mike Carpenter thinks the program to give a laptop computer to ever MI 6th-grader won’t work and is big waste of money.

    The idea that equipping kids with laptops will somehow inspire them to become more engaged in school work has little basis in sound research. Michigan sixth-graders who can’t read at grade level (about two-thirds of them, based on various standardized test data) need instruction in reading, not in surfing the Internet or creating PowerPoint presentations. As far as extending the school day goes, who’s to say the kids will turn the laptops on or even bring them home after school? And what about families without an Internet service provider or even a telephone at home?

    And then there’s the cost. If $39.3 million sounds affordable now (or even if it doesn’t), multiply that times seven, which is the number of years it will take this year’s rising sixth-graders to graduate. Since each new class of sixth-graders presumably will have to be equipped with laptops, the price tag will rise to an estimated $275 million dollars a year by the seventh year. Where is this money coming from? One source state officials are hoping for is in-kind software contributions from the private sector. State officials also hope the feds will continue paying a part. In the end though, “hoping” for money to pay for programs isn’t a sound way to approach public policy.

    I think his math may be faulty here. Typical computer leases run 3 years so, unless the legislators were really stupid and only allocated enough money for the first year of the lease, these kids would have the computers through the 8th grade. Thus, the program would only cost a third as much. Other than that, though, he’s spot on. He proposes that the money would be better spent setting up vouchers or more charter schools.

    If Michigan would simply expand school choice through tuition tax credits and/or by allowing for the creation of more charter schools, parents would be able to hold schools accountable through their choice of schools. If they wanted laptop computers for their children, they could choose a school that provided them. This would create an atmosphere of free market competition that would eventually determine, at the most efficient price, whether or not computers are effective at improving student achievement.

    Cathy Cuthbert’s School Liberator sees some irony in Carpenter’s solution:

    But here’s the joke-what do you supposed charter school apparatchiks trying to corrupt homeschoolers offer them as inducements to put the ring back in their noses and join government schools? Yes, Mr. Carpenter, you guessed it, laptop computers.

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