Infrastructure

Internet Access Has No Impact On Test Scores, Study Says

By Andrew Trotter — September 04, 2002 3 min read

Public school spending on classroom Internet connections appears to have no measurable impact on student achievement in California, concludes a recent study by two University of Chicago economists.

Order the “The Impact of Internet Subsidies in Public Schools” from the National Bureau of Economic Research. There is a $5 charge.

An educational technology expert, however, said the study failed to delve deeply enough into the issue.

Released last month, the study set out to examine the impact of the federal E-rate program, which helps schools acquire telecommunications services, and the effect classroom Internet connections have had on student achievement. The researchers used data from the California and U.S. departments of education for every school in the state.

“If you take as a narrow focus of the program, just to increase access, the E-rate appears very successful in doing that,” said Austan Goolsbee, who teaches in the University of Chicago’s graduate school of business. “It’s on the broader topic—is that a good goal or not—that we haven’t found any evidence that it is [providing academic benefits].”

Elusive Achievement Link

Mr. Goolsbee and his colleague, Jonathan Guryan, matched information from E-rate applications of the California schools with student scores on mathematics, reading, and science on the Stanford Achievement Test-9th Edition.

“The results show no evidence that Internet investment had any measurable effect on student achievement,” their report says, basing that conclusion on the mean test scores from the schools studied, the fraction of students from each school scoring above the 75th percentile for the state, and the percentage of students scoring above the 25th percentile.

The researchers, who allowed one year for increases in Internet connections to have an impact in the classroom, found the same result regardless of the grade level or the poverty level of a school.

But Norris Dickard, the director of public policy for the Washington-based Benton Foundation, which studies issues related to school access to technology, called the researchers’ conclusions overly simplistic.

He said test-score improvements are unlikely to stem from any one factor in education, such as Internet connections.

“I would say, number one, it’s too early to tell” if there is a link between Internet connections and student achievement, Mr. Dickard said. “Second of all, we’ve got to do a lot more with teachers’ professional development—we’ve been saying that for years.”

He added that, in business and industry, hard evidence of the beneficial impact of technology has also been elusive, but that hasn’t stopped American companies from investing heavily in technology for their operations.

Mr. Goolsbee said the study was only a first crack at trying to determine if there is a link between spending on educational technology and student achievement.

“It’s not strong—the finding on test scores,” he acknowledged. “Few things appear to influence test scores in the immediate term; we tried to make that clear in the report.”

Seeing an effect from Internet access, he added, “could take a while.”

Still, Mr. Goolsbee said, he hopes to continue the study with data from future years.

Classroom Connections

Using federal data from 1996 to 2000 and the annual E-rate applications submitted by California’s schools, the University of Chicago economists also examined how the education-rate program affected trends toward increasing classroom connections to the Internet in schools that serve students of varying levels of poverty.

Mr. Goolsbee and Mr. Guryan confirmed conclusions from other studies that the poorest schools have received the lion’s share of funding for wiring classrooms. In other words, the priority goal of the E-rate program—to help the poorest schools most—is being met.

Since 1998, schools have received about $2 billion a year in E-rate funds.

Events

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Infrastructure 'Big Burden' for Schools Trying to Give Kids Internet Access
A year into the pandemic, millions of students remain without internet because of financial hurdles and logistical difficulties.
5 min read
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after her virtual school hours while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of the computer, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at their residence in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood.
Veronica Esquivel, 10, finishes her homework after her virtual school hours while her brother Isias Esquivel sits in front of the computer, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, at their residence in Chicago's predominantly Hispanic Pilsen neighborhood.
Shafkat Anowar/AP
Infrastructure Q&A How to Expand Home Internet Connectivity for K-12 Students Over the Long Haul
One Florida district is mapping its region and prioritizing communities with the greatest economic needs for home internet access.
6 min read
This "heat map" generated by GIS technology uses progressively darker colors to illustrate the areas of Palm Beach County with the highest concentrations of families who lack home internet access.
This "heat map" generated by GIS technology uses progressively darker colors to illustrate the areas of Palm Beach County with the highest concentrations of families who lack home internet access.
Courtesy of Donna Goldstein
Infrastructure The Big Pandemic Tech Challenge: Reliable, High-Quality Internet Experiences for All
Simply providing a student with a device and internet connection at home isn’t enough to ensure high-quality online learning.
12 min read
A team of people build a path across the digital divide.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and iStock/Getty
Infrastructure Half of Districts Lack Connectivity Needed for Widespread Videoconferencing, Device Usage
Two-thirds of America's public school students attend schools that may not provide enough bandwidth for life after COVID-19.
3 min read
.
iStock/Getty