Internet invention in public schools rises scores and behavior problem
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According to EducationSuperHighway, from 2015 to 2019, public school districts in the United States invested nearly $5 billion to upgrade their Wi-Fi networks. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of K-12 students still lack minimal connectivity at home for learning remotely.
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In a new study from the University of Notre Dame, researchers determined how school district connectivity increases test scores and also showed the increased behavior problems.
In accordance with new research from Yixing Chen, an assistant professor of marketing at Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business, it is said that a $600,000 increase in annual internet access spending can create a profit of approximately $820,000 to $1.8 million but along with losses from disciplinary problems totaling $25,800 to $53,440. In his paper "Investigating the Academic Performance and Disciplinary Consequences of School District Internet Access Spending" posted in the February issue of the Journal of Marketing Research, it also shows the academic gain is larger for schools in counties with better home access to high-speed internet.
The fastest internet connection speed means better students' academic performance, which is associated with higher future income potential. Meanwhile, disciplinary problems leading to students' removal from the classroom cause administrative costs per expulsion, funding losses due to lower average daily attendance rates, and operations costs for alternative education programs.
The team compiled data from more than 9,000 public schools in Texas from 2000 to 2014, containing internet access spending, 11 academic performance indicators, and 47 types of school disciplinary problems. They also supplemented the public data with surveys of 3,924 parents.
Despite lacking empirical evidence about the downside of school internet, a debate on the regulation of school internet access still happens. On the one hand, they worry about children's access to obscene or harmful content over the internet that led to the implementation of the Children's Internet Protection Act. Otherwise, some people think that zealously limiting internet access can undermine learning outcomes.
Chen, who specializes in the social impact of marketing, advises districts need to think strategically and consider how they will manage the fallout.
"Our research shows high-speed internet serves as an information superhighway to learning opportunities and to negative behaviors such as cyber-bullying," he said. "Therefore, we should reimagine the boundaries of open school internet access and strengthen internet safety training in our curricula."
Despite goals to close the classroom connectivity gap, parents, school districts and policymakers have some trouble evaluating the impact of internet access spending. Chen says his team's study provides a roadmap for schools to quantify the payoffs of their institutional spending and underscores why bridging the digital divide needs to be done carefully.
"School district administrators can use our findings to effectively communicate to parents the tangible value of their internet access spending," Chen said. "The positive synergy between this and household internet access suggests districts' efforts to incentivize and help parents obtain access can be a good way to help their students but must be coupled with better strategies for mitigating any negative unintended consequences."
Extending this study, Chen is constructing a benchmark database of U.S. public schools' performance metrics, finance, school characteristics, and neighborhood characteristics. Also, research collaboration has been established between Notre Dame and GreatSchools, a K-12 nonprofit, to help public schools with strategic planning.