How banning cellphones from school increases test scores

“How smart is it to allow students to use mobile phones at school?” a couple of researchers ask today on The Conversation. “Not very,” they’ve concluded.

Richard Murphy, an assistant professor of economics at the University of Texas, and Louis-Philippe Beland, assistant professor of economics at Louisiana State University, released research of their study of the impact of a mobile phone ban on student test scores.

We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and at-risk students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days.

They studied students in England, where 90 percent of students own cellphones. They say their conclusion should hold up in the U.S., where 73 percent of students are cellphone owners.

They say the most significant part of their study is that the biggest improvement comes among the lowest achievers.

The gains observed amongst students with lowest achievement when phones were banned were double those recorded among average students. Our results also indicate the ban having a greater impact on special education needs students and those eligible for free school meals.

However, banning mobile phones had no discernible effect on high achievers. Also, interestingly, 14-year-olds were not significantly affected in either direction. This could be due to low phone use amongst this age group.

The researchers don’t discount the possibility that cellphones could help student achievement in school in some cases, but they say it’s outweighed by the negative effect.