Pennsylvania, Washington, Ohio, Vermont, and North Dakota ranked at the top of a recent study of technology use in K-12 education. The study, conducted by the Progress and Freedom Foundation–a nonprofit organization that examines the implications of technology use on public policy–ranked the 50 states in terms of technology across several categories.

Called “Digital State 1998,” the study was done in conjunction with Government Technology magazine. The five states listed above tied for the highest ranking possible in the K-12 category, scoring100 out of a possible 100 points.

The K-12 rankings reflect the use of technology to enhance learning opportunities for students, said Cindy Crandall, project leader. The rankings were based on three criteria, Crandall said: percentage of schools with connections to the internet, ratio of students to multimedia computers, and extent to which schools offer performance indicators on the web.

Overall, K-12 technology has seen great improvement in the past year, Crandall said, as the average score climbed 52 percent– to 67 from 44–over last year’s results. In addition to investing heavily in infrastructure, many states are focusing their attentions on training public school teachers to integrate the new technology into their classrooms, Crandall said.

One trend that Crandall found particularly encouraging is the increased spread of school performance indicators on the internet. At least 30 states now have some kind of school performance measures available on their web sites, she said, allowing parents to compare schools throughout the state.

“We hope this report is going to be a tool and a resource for the people who are interested in seeing some benchmarks for states to evaluate where they are in the spectrum of school technology,” Crandall said.

Link-to-Learn

Pennsylvania’s Link-to-Learn initiative was singled out by the report as a Best Practice in the K-12 category. Link-to-Learn is a three-year, $132 million initiative aimed at expanding the use of technology in Pennsylvania’s classrooms.

John Bailey, director of the state’s Office of Educational Technology, said that what separates Link-to-Learn from other state technology programs is its emphasis on educational goals rather than technological ones.

“Our approach from the beginning has been for schools to identify their educational goals, then decide how they can use technology to help meet those goals,” Bailey said. “We’ve never encouraged technology for its own sake by setting goals just around the number of classrooms wired to the internet, for example.”

Technology funding in Pennsylvania has increased 1,500 percent during the past five years, Bailey said. Furthermore, every state technology grant requires schools to provide professional development for its teachers and to share the technology with the community through classes, extended library hours, and other programs.

This year’s Link-to-Learn funds also included $2 million earmarked for Year 2000 (Y2K) compliance projects, Bailey said, making Pennsylvania the only state to require each of its districts to outline their Y2K compliance plans.

K-20 Network

Washington boasted not only a No. 1 ranking in the K-12 category, but also took top honors overall for the second year in a row. But the state’s most impressive area of growth, according to the report, occurred in K-12 education, with 98 percent of its districts enjoying internet access.

“We’re extremely proud of moving from 19 to 1 in the Digital State survey,” said Steve Kolodney, director of the state’s Department of Information Services. “Education is the governor’s No. 1 priority, and technology is a way to open up education to more students. It gives us the opportunity to create equality and extraordinary access to teaching and collaboration that simply wouldn’t have been possible before.”

Kolodney gave credit for the jump in the rankings to the launch of the state’s K-20 Educational Telecommunications Network last fall. The high-speed, large-capacity network–one of the nation’s largest public telecommunications networks–will connect all 296 K-12 districts, plus the state’s public colleges and universities, to videoconferencing opportunities and the internet by the end of next year.

The report also stated that Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction posts performance results of individual schools on its web site, and many of the state’s school sites provide parents with information regarding their children’s performance.

SchoolNet

Ohio experienced the most remarkable jump of any state in the survey, from 46 last year to No. 1 this year. Sam Orth, executive director of Ohio’s Office of Information, Learning and Technology Services, attributed the jump to several state technology initiatives–chief among them Ohio SchoolNet.

“Over the last three to four years, we’ve invested close to $500 million in educational technology,” Orth said. “To us, it’s an issue of access–technology must be equally accessible for lower-income districts as well.”

Links:

Gov. Bill Janklow
http://www.state.sd.us/state/executive/governor/governor.htm

U.S. West
http://www.uswest.com

Tele-Communications Inc.
http://www.tci.com

Sen. Tom Daschle
http://www.senate.gov/~daschle