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NBER WORKING PAPER SERIES

TECHNOLOGY'S EDGE: THE EDUCATIONAL BENEFITS OF COMPUTER-AIDED INSTRUCTION Lisa Barrow Lisa Markman Cecilia E. Rouse Working Paper 14240 http://www.nber.org/papers/w14240

NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138 August 2008

We thank the many dedicated principals, teachers, and staff of the school districts that participated in this project as well as Gadi Barlevy, Thomas Cook, Jonas Fisher, Jean Grossman, Brandi Jeffs, Alan Krueger, Lisa Krueger, Sean Reardon, Jesse Rothstein, Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Pei Zhu, and seminar participants at Columbia University, Duke University, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, McMaster University, Queens University, and the University of Notre Dame for helpful conversations and comments. Elizabeth Debraggio, Benjamin Kaplan, Katherine Meckel, Kyung-Hong Park, Ana Rocca, and Nathan Wozny provided expert research assistance. Funding for this project was generously provided by the Education Research Section at Princeton University. Any views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors are ours. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research. NBER working papers are circulated for discussion and comment purposes. They have not been peerreviewed or been subject to the review by the NBER Board of Directors that accompanies official NBER publications. © 2008 by Lisa Barrow, Lisa Markman, and Cecilia E. Rouse. All rights reserved. Short sections of text, not to exceed two paragraphs, may be quoted without explicit permission provided that full credit, including © notice, is given to the source.

Technology's Edge: The Educational Benefits of Computer-Aided Instruction Lisa Barrow, Lisa Markman, and Cecilia E. Rouse NBER Working Paper No. 14240 August 2008 JEL No. I2,J0 ABSTRACT We present results from a randomized study of a well-defined use of computers in schools: a popular instructional computer program for pre-algebra and algebra. We assess the program using a test designed to target pre-algebra and algebra skills. Students randomly assigned to computer-aided instruction score 0.17 of a standard deviation higher on pre-algebra/algebra tests than students randomly assigned to traditional instruction. We hypothesize that the effectiveness arises from increased individualized instruction as the effects appear larger for students in larger classes and in classes with high student absentee rates.

Lisa Barrow Economic Research Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago 230 South LaSalle Street Chicago, IL 60657 lbarrow@frbchi.org Lisa Markman A-17-H-1 Firestone Library Princeton University Princeton, NJ 08544-2098 lmarkman@princeton.edu

Cecilia E. Rouse Industrial Relations Section Firestone Library Princeton University Princeton, NJ 08544-1013 and NBER rouse@princeton.edu

I.

INTRODUCTION Mathematical achievement is arguably critical both to individuals and to the future of the

U.S. economy. For example, research by Grogger (1996) and Murnane, Willet, and Levy (1995) suggests that math skills may account for a large portion of overall wage inequality including the African-American-white wage gap. And yet, in spite of recent progress, levels of mathematics proficiency remain dramatically low (U.S. Dept. of Education, 2006 – National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) report). Compounding the problem of poor mathematics performance is the fact that many school districts report difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers, particularly in the fields of math and science, where schools must compete with (non-education) private sector salaries (Murnane and Steele 2007). While there is mixed evidence on the importance of teacher qualifications on student achievement in many subjects, the students of more qualified math teachers...
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