Only one high school in Maine has equipped students and teachers with computers.

PORTLAND (AP) – Laptops made a significant and positive impact when used by high school students for their schoolwork, according to a report released Wednesday by the Mitchell Institute.

The report tracked the progress of students at Piscataquis Community High School, which equipped all students and teachers with laptops beginning in the fall of 2002. It’s the first and only Maine high school to do so.

The Mitchell Institute studied the impact of the laptops as part of a grant provided to the high school by the Great Maine Schools Project.

The researchers asked teachers, parents and students for their perception about how the laptops performed in the classroom. The report details those opinions, but not actual hard data. A separate report analyzing grades, attendance and behavior will be released by the institute in a few weeks.

The new report says teachers noted mostly positive impacts on student engagement and work, most notably with students labeled at-risk or low-achieving.

“To have for the most part two-thirds or more of teachers reporting that the laptop had a positive effect for at-risk or low achieving students really says something about what a difference this program is making in the education of these students,” said Mitchell Institute Executive Director Colleen Quint.

Maine already outfits its 34,000 seventh- and eighth-grade students and 3,000 middle school teachers with laptops, a $37.2 million investment.

Educators have credited the laptops with a drop in absenteeism and significant improvement in paying attention to schoolwork.

But talk of expanding Maine’s laptop program into high schools appears to have been abandoned because of the state’s tight budget.

The Mitchell Institute reported that nearly two-thirds of teachers said student achievement and quality of work in their classes improved.

More than 70 percent of teachers said student-teacher interaction improved.

Teachers said that at-risk or low-achieving students improved in every area covered in the survey.

More than three-quarters of teachers said the laptops improved student engagement, class participation, motivation, and ability to work independently and in groups.

The report said 79 percent of students agreed that laptops made their schoolwork more interesting, and 60 percent said they are more motivated to complete their schoolwork.

A majority of teachers reported that laptops improved student engagement, interest level and motivation.

Seventy-one percent of students said the laptops improved the quality of their school work, and 54 percent said that having a laptop improved their grades.

AP-ES-01-14-04 1810EST

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