Internet access in Texas schools improves SAT scores but leads to more disciplinary placements

Internet access in public schools is a double-edged sword, according to a study by scholars at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. On one hand, it can positively affect academic performance as measured by SAT scores; on the other, it also negatively affects student behavior in school as measured by disciplinary placements, specifically the number of students who are removed from the classroom for at least one day.

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The study by scholars at Collaborative for Customer-Based Execution and Strategy (C-CUBES) examined data from 8,210 public schools in Texas from 2000 to 2014. Using advanced econometric techniques, the researchers examined the effect of broadband internet access on SAT scores and disciplinary placements after controlling for a variety of school characteristics, such as enrollments, student-teacher ratio, administration salary, student mobility rate, teacher experience, expenditure per pupil, number of students in programs for free and reduced lunch and district poverty rate.

The study results show that while a 10 percent increase in internet access is associated with an improvement of school-average SAT scores of 8.2 points, increased access also increases the number of disciplinary placements by 3.6 percent (amounting to $12 to $30 million in additional costs yearly for the schools combined).

According to the authors’ calculation, an 8.2-point increase in average SAT scores would help 1,000 more Texas public-school students get into college. Still, parents should be mindful of ensuring students do not fall into the trap of increased disciplinary issues, the researchers said.

“Parents and schools struggle to quantify the impact of internet access on students,” said study leader Vikas Mittal, the J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing at Rice. “By empirically quantifying the impact of broadband internet access on critical outcomes, our study provides a basis for school boards to evaluate their policies for maximal impact. Efforts to increase internet access must be supported by better training and focus on mitigating disciplinary issues in the school.”

Additional members of the research team include Shrihari Sridhar and Yixing Chen at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School.

C-CUBES released its inaugural study on public schools and parent satisfaction, which focused on family and community engagement, in November 2017. A summary can be viewed here.

second study, released Dec. 5, found that traditional public schools are less likely to earn an A or A-plus grade from parents than private or charter schools are. A third study, released Dec. 14, found that traditional public-school parents who are “very dissatisfied” with their child’s school are 2.5 times more likely to switch to a charter school than parents who are “very satisfied.” A fourth study, released Feb. 5, showed that safety, just behind family and community engagement, is one of the most import drivers of parents’ satisfaction with their child’s school. A fifth study, released March 26, found that rather than putting in place complex processes and procedures, traditional public schools can easily measure their ability to make SAT gains by assessing customer satisfaction.

For more information about and insights from Rice Business faculty research, visit the school’s Rice Business Wisdom website, http://ricebusinesswisdom.com.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is associate director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.