BWLI gets high honors
06/16/2009- The Berskhire Eagle
Three years in, the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative pilot program has clearly established its value. The laptop initiative, which is shorthand for the BWLI, has been a significant benefit for the teachers and students in Pittsfield and North Adams public schools, and we hope it will continue to be.
A report assessing the initiative, which began in January 2006, by the Lynch School of Education at Boston College, asserts that there is "emerging evidence that student achievement was positively enhanced" by the program. Eighth-graders who had participated for two years compiled the highest percentage of pass rates on MCAS tests since the exams began 11 years ago, and historic MCAS test pass rates were achieved by both seventh- and eighth-graders during the BWLI period.
While we are skeptical of the value of standardized tests, MCAS isn't going anywhere and it is important that students do well on them. It is apparent that the laptop program contributes to better scores. Perhaps of greater significance is the report's finding that 71 percent of the 175 teachers in the five public schools where the laptop initiative is in place believe the quality of work by students has improved because of the program, as opposed to the two percent who believe it has declined.
Many worthy educational programs are in jeopardy because of real or potential budget cuts at the state and local level, and Pittsfield and North Adams administrators will have to be creative in maintaining the laptop initiative, let alone expand it to high schools, as would be ideal. However, by introducing technology to help prepare students for a high-tech world, the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative has proven to be a program that returns dividends on the taxpayers' investment.