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Volume 24, Number 3
May/June 2008

“Equity, Access, and Opportunity”

Despite challenges, more districts adopt one-to-one laptop programs


Over the last few years, school districts across the country have initiated one-to-one laptop programs. According to a newly released nationwide survey, more than one-fourth of the 2,500 largest U.S. school districts have at least one full grade of students with their own laptops—a figure that is expected to rise to 50 percent within three years. While the largest one-to-one laptop programs are the districtwide program for grades 6–12 in Henrico County, Va., and Maine’s statewide program in middle schools and some high schools, states including Texas, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Florida are also investing in one-to-one computing.

The practical issues involved in implementing these programs are significant, experts say, and so is the expense. In some high-profile cases, districts have canceled programs for either one or the other reason. Nonetheless, many educators believe it’s just a matter of time before laptops are as ubiquitous as lunchboxes in students’ backpacks.

“It’s all about equity, access, and opportunity,” says Claudia Mansfield Sutton, a spokeswoman for the American Association of School Administrators, which co-sponsored the nationwide survey, titled America’s Digital Schools 2008 (ADS08). “If a child can only use the computer lab once or twice a week, how can he or she compete? With a laptop, kids can access [digital] content anytime, anywhere.”

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

America’s Digital Schools 2008: The Six Trends to Watch. Available online at

Fullerton School District Laptop Program.

D. Silvernail and A.K. Gritter. “Maine’s Middleschool Laptop Program: Creating Better Writers—Research Brief.” The Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation (CEPARE), University of Southern Maine, Gorham, ME, October 2007. Available online at

M. Warschauer. Laptops and Literacy: Learning in the Wireless Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press, 2006.

A. Zucker. Transforming Schools with Technology: How Smart Use of Digital Tools Helps Achieve Six Key Education Goals. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press, 2008.