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Improving student achievement, cost effectively

Failing in Mathematics, is the first article we’ve seen in a long time advocating educational software as a way to cost effectively improve student achievement. Most of the recent talk about education reforms has centered on other options — all of which are extremely expensive.

History has shown that in tough economic times, people?s resistance to change decreases. They are more willing to try new things if they appear to be cost effective and easy to use.

The article shows that randomized computer-aided instruction in mathematics increases student achievement and that the effect is larger for students in large, heterogeneous classes.

Also, the cost of maintaining a computer learning lab is equivalent to that associated with reducing class sizes.

Based on a randomized trial of Merit reading and language arts software, we believe this article understates the potential economic impact of educational software in schools.

The authors write that students benefited from receiving personalized instruction while using the math software. The schools did not have to hire additional teachers to make gains in high school math test scores.

In the research conducted on Merit, more randomly assigned students passed the state standardized test for Reading Language Arts than students who did not use the software.

It was also observed that the software not only provides individualized instruction, but that it frees up teachers’ time to work individually with pupils, thereby making the teacher more productive.

The authors focus their analysis on the value of helping more students to get ready for math in college. There is no doubt that it is important to have more students succeed in college.

However, schools and local governments are now facing a much greater cost challenge — keeping students in school. Research by the Alliance for Excellence in Education has documented the high costs associated with high school dropouts.

Many dropouts come from the lower quartile in a class and do not feel they can read adequately to keep up in school.

As a result, it is important to discover which educational software tools are effective in helping students in a diverse school setting.

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