There isn't much money to be made with pencil and paper. There's even less to be made when students are proficient readers and don't need extra reading programs.
NPR has profiled a Bethlehem PA school district in which a school official has decided to do his own research to figure out why so many students can't read, and why the failure in reading instruction is so wide-spread. The answer has nothing to do with adding technology to the classroom, or increased use of "leveled books," or self esteem, or more student-centered learning. It's got to do with learning what sounds the letters make. In some of the new basal reading programs, a token amount of phonetic instruction has been added to the curriculum, but not enough to insure that students become proficient readers. And teachers still aren't learning the phonetic structure of English. Teacher instruction is still based on methods that have failed for generations.
Even though NPR doesn't use the word, perhaps fearing that it is still a word of ill repute, the teachers are learning phonics, how to teach reading phonetically, the way it should be taught if students are to learn. But, as teachers can't teach what they don't know, teachers must first learn the letter sounds. From the article, it's not clear as to whether students are explicitly and systematically taught the letter sounds and then led to practice them, but-
Since they've made such huge investments in technology, and since standardized testing is now done on computers, I fear that most districts will still cling to the vain hope that laptops, tablets, and smart boards will save the educational day.
They won't. Explicit phonics instruction will.