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Computers boost kids' test scores

Graphic September 29, 1998
Web posted at: 11:56 p.m. EDT (0356 GMT)

From Correspondent May Lee

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The United States' investment in computers in classrooms appears to be paying off.

A new study by Educational Testing Service found that computers boosted standardized math scores among fourth- and eighth-graders.

But to produce those benefits, educators say that computer usage must be quality and not quantity.

"The computers have to be placed in the right hands and used in the right ways," said Virginia Edwards of Education Week. "In fact, used for the wrong purposes, computers seem to do more harm than good. Technology is, after all, only a tool in the educational process, not terribly unlike a pencil."

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The study says teachers should have the technological skills to use computers and the proper programs to enhance a student's education.

The report found that 81 percent of fourth-graders and 76 percent of eighth-graders had math teachers with computer training.

But the study also found that although most states offer additional training, only Connecticut, New Hampshire and North Carolina require that teachers get updated computer training before they can get their teacher's license renewed.

GraphicFor low-income students, access to well-trained teachers is a challenge.

"Students from urban areas, poor students, black students just aren't having the access to the uses of computers that are going to raise their test scores and improve school climate," said Harold Wenglinsky of Educational Testing Service.

However, some educators say that education isn't just about achieving high test scores.

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"We need to go far beyond just teacher interaction with students on a cognitive level," said John Devine of New York University. "We need to know what the kids are fantasizing, what they're thinking about, what they're worried about."

Devine said focusing solely on academics could shortchange the emotional growth of students.

"If all we do is focus on technology and on learning, academic learning, then we're missing this other whole important side of adolescent development," he said.

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