District Cuts Teacher Pay to Provide Laptops for Students; Test Scores and Proficiency Improve

Mooresville public schools are drawing national attention because of a statistical anomaly. In the last 10 years, Mooresville students pushed the district into second place in terms of test scores, but the district ranks among the lowest in per-pupil spending.

So what happened? In a radical move, the district made the challenging decision to cut teachers’ pay in order to provide each student from third grade through high school with a laptop.

In order to make ends meet, the district had to cut 65 staff members, including 37 teachers. The laptops have not only improved the district’s standing in test scores and proficiency but also challenged the idea that success is related to per-student spending. Overall, the district spends $7,415.89 a year on each student, which ranks the district 100th out of 115 in per-student spending. Regardless, Mooresville students are 89 percent proficient in math, reading and science, up from 73 percent three years ago.

Students’ textbooks, notes and assignments are computerized in such a way that allows parents and teachers to track their progress. The laptops allow for self-paced learning, allowing each student to move forward at their own comfort. Top-performing students are consistently challenged with new curricular materials that appear on their laptops, enabling the program to reach students of all many learning styles.

But the move to cut teachers’ salaries in order to purchase technology for students is not without its controversy. Though her article is centered on college teaching, UCLA Professor Pamela Hieronymi’s piece Don’t Confuse Technology With College Teaching can be considered when examining the impact of diminishing teacher influence in favor of computerized learning.

While the presence of laptops in the hands of Mooresville students may have catapulted the district into the national spotlight and improved test scores, the question must be asked: How can a district effectively use and afford technology while maintaining a solid teacher presence? Why can’t schools have both? We welcome our reader’s discussions and would love to hear from you in the comments below.