Maine Laptop Program "Unquestioned" Success

This is my hobbyhorse, I know, but the program in which 7th graders in Maine public schools received Apple iBooks for the year, later expanded to include 8th graders (as those 7th graders moved up a class), is being discussed for expansion.No discussion took place during a legislative hearing about whether test results and non-quantitative measures make it more worthwhile to spend an additional $72 million between now and 2008 instead of spending that money on new instructional materials (books, movies, etc.), computer labs, and teacher salaries. "By any measure, the Maine laptop program is a success story," David Brenerman, board chairman of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce and father of a seventh grader, told the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. Unfortunately, there are no measures. Previous stories on the "success" of the program hinged on very fuzzy results. I talked about that here back in February. Even worse: The success of the laptop program, which was first proposed by former Gov. Angus King, did not come into question during Monday's hearing, and opposition to the expansion was muted. So...they put a program into place without metrics of any kind to determine the success, and anecdotal evidence makes them want to spend $73 million over five years in a state that's cutting other budgets. I'm all for spending $73 million additional on education -- but not on individual computers. Not unless they can show substantive benefits. Test scores aren't enough (and they aren't being cited). Reduced absenteeism, increase in quality of student's written and visual work, less disciplinary activity (suspensions, principal visits), higher qualitative results from parent surveys about their children's focus on school and learning -- aren't there any results like these? [Update] I received email on April 8 from someone involved in the program who directed me to read the actual reports from Maine Learns that detail the objective and subjective work done to date. I have, and I address them in a later post, here.