Effectiveness of Reading and Mathematics Software Products: Findings From Two Student Cohorts—Executive Summary (NCEE 2009-4042)

In the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), Congress called for the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to conduct a rigorous study of the conditions and practices under which educational technology is effective in increasing student academic achievement. A 2007 report presenting study findings for the 2004-2005 school year, indicated that, after one school year, differences in student test scores were not statistically significant between classrooms that were randomly assigned to use software products and those that were randomly assigned not to use products. School and teacher characteristics generally were not related to whether products were effective. The second year of the study examined whether an additional year of teaching experience using the software products increased the estimated effects of software products on student test scores. The evidence for this hypothesis is mixed. For reading, there were no statistically significant differences between the effects that products had on standardized student test scores in the first year and the second year. For sixth grade math, product effects on student test scores were statistically significantly lower (more negative) in the second year than in the first year, and for algebra I, effects on student test scores were statistically significantly higher in the second year than in the first year. The study also tested whether using any of the 10 software products increased student test scores. One product had a positive and statistically significant effect. Nine did not have statistically significant effects on test scores. Five of the insignificant effects were negative and four were positive. Study findings should be interpreted in the context of design and objectives. The study examined a range of reading and math software products in a range of diverse school districts and schools. But it did not study many forms of educational technology and it did not include many types of software products. How much information the findings provide about the effectiveness of products that are not in the study is an open question. Products in the study also were implemented in a specific set of districts and schools, and other districts and schools may have different experiences with the products. The findings should be viewed as one element within a larger set of research studies that have explored the effectiveness of software products. Three appendixes are included: (1) Second-Year Data Collection and Response Rates; (2) Description of Sample for the 10 Products; and (3) Details of Estimation Methods. (Contains 29 footnotes, 4 figures and 24 tables.

Campuzano, L., Dynarski, M., Agodini, R., and Rall, K.
Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
Related Research
Content Area: 
Grade Level: 
early elementary
intermediate elementary
middle school
Instructional Support: 
alternate access devices and systems
electronic references and resources
multimedia products and projects
multiple formats of text and notation
opportunities to learn concepts
organize and plan
practice and reinforcement activities
student control
teacher control
NCTM Content Standards: 
data analysis & probability
Expressions & Equations
Measurement & Data
Operations & Algebraic Thinking
Statistics & Probability