When Schools Ban Smartphones, Students’ Test Scores Improve

A new study, covering more than 130,000 students across England, looks at how cellphone policies have changed since 2001.

by Phil Nobile, Newsday / May 20, 2015

(TNS) -- Cellphones are as common as a pencil and notebook these days among students, yet they may be a distraction when it comes to test scores.

A new study by the London School of Economics found that a cellphone ban in schools results in a clear improvement in overall test scores.

The study, conducted by researchers Richard Murphy and Louis-Philippe Beland, covered more than 130,000 students across 91 schools in England, looking at how cellphone policies have changed since 2001. The data looked at results in national exams taken across the country by students at age 16.

The study found that students saw a 6.41 percent improvement in test scores and performance at schools that have introduced a cellphone ban.

Low-achieving students saw improved outcomes of up to 14.23 percent as a result of a cellphone ban, with high-achieving students have little to no impact from the ban.

"The results suggest that low-achieving students are more likely to be distracted by the presence of mobile phones, while high achievers can focus in the classroom regardless of whether phones are present," the study says. "Given 18 heterogeneous results, banning mobile phones could be a low-cost way for schools to reduce educational inequality."

The researchers note, however, that technology like mobile phones can be productive if used properly.

"Schools that restrict access to mobile phones subsequently experience an improvement in test scores," the study says. "However, these findings do not discount the possibility that mobile phones could be a useful learning tool if their use is properly structured."

©2015 Newsday. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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