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THE CUTTING EDGE / BACK TO SCHOOL SPECIAL

Computers in Schools: A Report Card

August 26, 1996|JENNIFER OLDHAM

In most elementary and secondary schools across the country, computers are as commonplace as ragged-edged textbooks. However, studies show that many school districts have yet to move monitors and keyboards from computer labs and into classrooms. And although educators spent $3.3 billion on hardware, software and teacher training in 1994-95, experts say the average school makes limited use of computers. A look at technology in the nation's elementary, middle and high schools:

A Few Notes

* About 50% of teachers have little or no experience with technology in the classroom, and few certificate programs provide effective computer training.

* About 35% of schools nationwide had access to the Internet in 1994; last year 50% were online. Despite this increase, in 1995 only 5% of of California's schools currently have Internet access.

* It would take five years to place adequate technology in all schools, according to the federal Office of Technology Assessment--a timetable that would require a financial commitment of $10 billion to $12 billion a year for five years to provide a computer for every seven students.

* Experts agree there are many challenges to achieve widespread use of technology, including training teachers and cultivating a plentiful supply of high-quality educational software.

Bit by Bit

Although there are fewer students per computer today, many of these computers are obsolete. Experts place the ratio of students to powerful multimedia computers at 35 to 1. The ratio of students to computers over the last 12 years:

1995-96 10

Dead Last

California ranked last in terms of number of students per computer, according to a 1995-96 study of state schools and technology by Quality Education Data

Top 5

*--*

State* Students per computer Students per multimedia computer South Dakota 6.0 15.4 Wyoming 6.0 16.5 North Dakota 6.8 15.1 Alaska 7.0 16.9 Kansas 7.3 16.6

*--*

Bottom 5

*--*

State* Students per computer Students per multimedia computer Ohio 14.4 61.8 Mississippi 14.9 62.7 Delaware 15.2 53.9 Hawaii 15.9 74.4 California 16.2 52.0

*--*

* Some districts did not report back to QED, requiring analysts to use data from the previous school year. According to data in a report released in July by the California Education Technology Task Force, California falls 45th among states in the number of students per computer and only has one multimedia computer for every 73 students.

Note: Multimedia computers include all Macintoshes or computers that have a 386 or higher processor and are capable of supporting CD-ROM drives or sound-video cards.

Sources: California Education Technology Task Force study, "Connect, Compute and Compete"; Education Department study, "Getting America's Students Ready for the 21st Century: Meeting the Technology Literacy Challenge"; Quality Education Data Inc.; Rand Corp. study, "Fostering the Use of Educational Technology: Elements of a National Strategy"; the Telecommunications Industries Analysis Project

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