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Cell phone study aids

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The city Department of Education’s new program providing cell phones to students is giving kids a shot in the arm, but a Brooklyn principal isn’t so sure it will last. “We’ve already seen a two percent increase in attendance and an increase in performance,” Susan Schaeffer, principal of I.S. 234 Arthur W. Cunningham in Gravesend, said at a meeting of District 22’s Community Education Council. “It’s pretty exciting,” she continued. “I don’t know if it’s going to work but I’ll let you know at the end of the school year.” Last month, the DOE distributed cell phones to 2,500 middle school students to encourage academic achievement. Students receive extra minutes as a reward for good behavior, regular attendance, homework completion, class participation, and high grades. Students also receive text messages from teachers reminding them of upcoming exams and offering study tips. Christopher Spinelli, president of District 22’s CEC, said it’s ironic that the DOE is supplying cell phones to students while simultaneously maintaining a ban of the devices in schools. “I think it’s a little hypocritical,” he said. “I’m not fully behind this,” he continued. “Education should be an incentive in its own right.” But Schaeffer said students sometimes need a little push. “They don’t necessarily see the benefits down the road of performing well in school,” she said. Even Schaeffer and her staff are conflicted about the idea of offering cell phones to students and the effectiveness of the program. “We ourselves have different feelings about this,” she said. “I hope that it has a positive impact on our children,” said Marianne Ferrara, District 22’s community superintendent. In the first weeks of the program, students at I.S. 234, which is located at 1875 East 17th Street, haven’t used their cell phones in school. “We haven’t had a big problem in school because the kids know we have a zero tolerance policy,” Schaeffer said.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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