A Tale of Four Schools : At Martin Luther King Jr., Final Verdict Is Not In

Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School, where about 70% of the students are black and the rest Latino or Cambodian, is in many ways typical of schools that have opted for federally funded integrated learning systems.

Two ILS labs manufactured by Jostens Learning Corp. are linked to computers in classrooms throughout the building. The computer programs walk students through practice math problems or help them build vocabulary and spelling skills through picture identification.

A roomful of second-graders sit attentively at their machines, headphones in place, working through the day's lesson and practicing their writing.

"This class has grown a lot. Most of the kids are reading at their grade level, which is amazing," said Julia McPhail, a second-grade teacher. "They like being on the computer, almost too much. It's quick-paced, colorful and gives them instant feedback. But sometimes after they've been sitting a long time they get bored; 50 minutes is a little long."

Another teacher said the sessions were sometimes "too much like a testing situation."

The final verdict is not in. Principal Claude Jenkins is pleased with the system--but it is too early to see the results on standardized tests.

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