Laptops keep kids in school, boost their grades
Eight years ago the Eastern Townships School Board started handing laptop computers to students, and it's had an impressive effect.
The school board's dropout rate has plummeted from 39 to 23 percent.
Students aren't just staying in school, they're doing much better academically.
The board's students used to rank 66th out of 70 school boards in the province; now they are in 23rd spot.
The program isn't cheap, but Chantal Beaulieu, the ETSB's director, says personal laptops are now a permanent part of the curriculum.
"With the results we have seen I think I can confidently say that it's here to stay," said Beaulieu.
Peter Hamilton works with students with learning and other disabilities.
He says these individual devices have not only allowed challenged kids to succeed, they're also helping them gain friends.
"If they can master some of the techniques and technology, then they become a bit of a mentor to the other kids so it really motivates them and valorizes them," said Hamilton.
Researchers at the University of Montreal studied the board this school year, and because of the phenomenal change in the dropout rate, are ready to recommend all schools adopt the program.
"Kids like it.. 95 percent of the teachers like it. I mean what else do you want?" said Thierry Karsenti.
The Chairman of the ETSB, Michael Murray, agrees wholeheartedly.
"As one parent told me, his kids are out the door early to get the bus because they're so keen to get to school. And that's a transformation!"
To date the computer program has cost $15 million over eight years, but analysts, teachers and students all agree that it's one investment that is yielding big returns.