At the bottom of my Christmas stocking Santa left me a little present: a new study! Unfortunately, it seems to be a lump of coal. An "education research firm" named Market Data Retrieval publishes an annual report on technology use in the schools (based on a questionnaire sent to the schools). This year they added a comparison between the use of technology and whether the school meets it’s AYP (annual yearly progress) requirements under NCLB. I’m not at all surprised by their findings.

Schools that have failed to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) are "slightly below average" when it comes to giving their students access to technologies such as multimedia computers, laptops, and high-speed internet service, a new report finds.

Most striking is the number of teachers using technology in schools that failed to meet AYP, the report said. Sixty-one percent of these schools said the majority of their teachers use the internet for instruction, compared with 74 percent of all schools. Seventy-nine percent of schools in need of improvement said the majority of their teachers use a computer daily, compared with 85 percent of all schools.

While the report tries to come to the conclusion that the lack of technology use has a major effect on low performing schools, a superintendent quoted in the article understands the situation much better.

"I suspect … that we may find the same factors are related to lack of technology and poor performance, but the lack of technology is not necessarily the cause of the poor performance," said Raymond Yeagley, superintendent of the Rochester, N.H., school system.

"Perhaps schools with the least financial resources, in addition to having less technology, are also unable to attract the best teachers because they don’t pay as well as their more affluent counterparts, are located in poorer communities or sections of communities where behavior problems and other issues are known to abound, and have less prestige," he added.

It’s easy to find a correlation between academic performance and technology use, poverty, teacher qualifications, or a host of other factors, Yeagley said–but it’s much harder to determine which factors are causing what outcomes.

I’m a big supporter of technology use in the classroom but this kind of report does nothing to help people understand it’s place. There are many factors that make up the process of teaching and learning. Computer use is just one part of that balance. To make a direct connection between student achievement and tech use, as this article tries to do, misleads teachers, administrators and parents trying to understand how that balance works.