Maine’s iBook Program Gets Good Press

| News

Governor Angus King, Maineis idealistic leader who proposed to give every Maine middle schooler an Apple laptop, must be feeling pretty good these days. Since implementing his plan to give Maineis economic future a boost by investing in education through the copious use of technology in the form of iBooks, many of the people who thought he was rowing with one oar have now come around to his way of thinking.

Governor Kingis "learning technology initiative" has attracted the attention of educators around the world; articles have appeared in newspapers from Alaska to Australia. In a recent article appearing in the Los Angeles Times, some early indications of whether the laptop program will have any real success in improving the education environment in Maine is being reported, and it looks good.

In the article Apple a Day Works in Maine Elizabeth Mehren of the L.A. Times reports that in a test program in one school in Washington County, Maine, before and after laptop statistics are impressive:

As school administrators such as Principal Gregory Goodness of the Shapleigh Middle School lauded his stateis effort to "level the academic playing field," the $37-million "learning technology initiative" made Maine the first state to offer universal laptop distribution to an entire grade of middle-schoolers.

In a trial run last spring at one school in rural Washington County, absenteeism dropped 50 percent with the arrival of state-issued laptops. Pre-laptops, seventh-graders at Pembroke School received 28 detentions in 96 days. With laptops, the same students numbered just three detentions in 79 days. Using the laptops, 91 percent raised their grades in at least one academic area; 82 percent improved in two subjects; 73 percent in three or more fields.

"I was a skeptic at first," Goodness said. "But this really is changing the face of education."

The article also reports on another program success, the widespread acceptance of the initiative by Maineis legislators and public. From the article:

"Dear Governor," read one typical e-mail when King floated the proposal almost three years ago: "This is the stupidest idea any politician ever had. What are you smoking?"

[...]

"Dear Governor," wrote the mother of a child whose seizure disorders kept him from holding a pencil long enough to complete a spelling test: "I want to thank you for saving my sonis life."

[...]

In a recent interview as he prepares to leave office in January, King said, "I had this clear insight that we were trapped at being 37th in per capita income." That same winter of 1999, Maine woke up to a surprise budget surplus of more than $50 million. King decided to use it to help vault the state out of poverty by making it a leader in technology education.

After a year of haggling, the state Legislature approved a $30-million endowment that staggers the initial apportionment of 36,000 laptops over two years. Foundation donations paid the difference for the $37- million contract with Apple Computer Inc.

This yearis seventh-graders will use the current batch of machines again next year, in the eighth grade, while the incoming seventh-graders will receive new Apples.

An annual outlay of $15 million to $20 million - out of the stateis $1.8-billion school budget - could keep the program going indefinitely, King said. He said that during a recent special session in which lawmakers grappled with a $240-million budget shortfall, no one called for eliminating the laptops.

You can find more information on the full article on the L.A.Times Web site. Itis a good read.

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