An educational research consultant is giving Idaho’s public schools a favorable review for their progress on meeting most of the goals of a statewide educational technology initiative.

The state has spent $56 million on the initiative in the past five years.

Overall progress has been good, said John Mergendoller of the Buck Institute for Education. But schools have made less progress toward the initiative’s evaluation and systems support objectives than the other six goals because those goals demand expertise rarely found in the schools and require time and money not anticipated, Mergendoller said.

“If statewide information is desired on the implementation and impact of educational technology, it will probably be necessary for the state of Idaho to define a statewide evaluation strategy and fund data collection and analysis,” he wrote in his 102-page report to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

“Regional or statewide network support centers could provide important assistance to many Idaho school districts,” Mergendoller wrote.

Kempthorne has authorized Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard to distribute to school districts the remaining $3 million of the state’s $10.5 million 1999 appropriation for the technology. That’s because the state appears to be getting benefit from the previous money spent, Kempthorne spokesman Mark Snider said.

Last year, the Legislature gave Kempthorne $100,000 to determine what the educational technology initiative has accomplished. Kempthorne agreed not to spend the $3 million until an independent review was completed.

Mergendoller based his conclusions on visits to 36 schools in 16 school districts and reviews of 48 technology research and evaluation studies conducted in Idaho’s public schools.

There is convincing evidence the technology initiative has been implemented in line with its goals, he said. Teachers are integrating technology, colleges of education are training teachers, and students are learning to be network engineers.

“I believe Idaho school culture is changing from a focus on getting and installing the technology to using it productively,” Mergendoller wrote.