A Causal-Comparative Study of Cell Phone Policies and Students’ Test Performance

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Regulating the distractions that the indiscriminate use of cell phones in classrooms poses has become a challenge for K–12 schools. The problem is that no specific cell phone use policy has guaranteed the attainment of higher learning outcomes among young adolescents. As cell phone distractions in secondary classrooms become a ubiquitous problem, this study is essential due to the lack of convergence in empirical evidence for validating the effects of cell phone regulation on students’ mathematics achievement. The purpose of this causal-comparative quantitative study was to test for statistically significant differences between the 2018-19 Smarter Balanced 10th-grade aggregate math test scores of selected high schools in Washington State based on their implementation of prohibitive versus permissive cell phone use policies. Self-determination and constructivist learning theories served as the theoretical framework for this study. Sixty-five public high schools were selected based on strict inclusion criteria. One research question was posed to test for significant differences among schools’ aggregate math scores based on pre–COVID-19 cell phone use policies. Data were analyzed with SPSS, using an independent t-test. There was not enough evidence to suggest that a statistically significant difference existed between the math scores achieved at cell phone permissive (M=56.83, SD=12.96) versus prohibiting (M=56.88, SD=10.88) schools. Educators were challenged to devise strategies for channeling cell phones toward instructional use. Further research on a larger scale across diverse demographics was recommended.