The nation’s schools improved their students’ access to internet-connected computers by more than 40 percent during the past year alone, according to a new study by research firm Market Data Retrieval (MDR), a division of Dun & Bradstreet Corp. of Shelton, Conn.

The achievement is one of several key findings in “Technology in Education 2000,” the latest installment of MDR’s annual reports on the state of technology in America’s schools.

According to the 2000 report, the average number of students per computer with internet access fell from 13.6 in 1999 to 7.9 in 2000, a drop of 42 percent. The same average number of students, 7.9, now share each multimedia computer, down from 9.8 in 1999.

Overall instructional-use computers average one for every 4.9 students, an improvement over last year’s one per 5.7 students.

South Dakota has the fewest number of students per internet-connected machine, 4.6, followed by Alaska, 4.8, Ohio, 4.9, Wyoming, 4.9, Nebraska, 5.1, and Delaware, 5.1. The District of Columbia has the worst ratio of students per internet-connected computer, 12.6, followed by California, 12.4, Alabama, 11.6, Louisiana, 11.4, and Nevada, 11.3.

Multimedia computers, defined as machines with a sound card and CD-ROM drive, make up 58 percent of the installed base of instructional computers in K-12 schools, according to the report. Seventy-one percent of the installed base of computers are connected to local area networks (LANs), and 58 percent are connected to the internet.

More than 80 percent of schools provide internet access in classrooms, and nearly half of all computers with internet access are located in classrooms.

As technology becomes more ubiquitous, teachers are in a better position to use it in their lessons, the report indicates. Sixty-three percent of schools reported the majority of their teachers now use the internet for instruction, up from 54 percent last year.

Despite these gains, the report suggests schools with higher numbers of minority students continue to lag behind. Schools with minority enrollments of 50 percent or more average 10.5 students per internet-connected computer, compared to 6.4 for schools with minority enrollments of less than 5 percent.

Furthermore, only 18 percent of high-minority schools report the majority of their teachers use the internet for instruction, compared to 32 percent of low-minority schools.

Use of other technologies

More than 85 percent of schools say they use LANs and CD-ROMs, according to the report. Sixty-four percent or more use wide area networks (WANs) and videodisc technology, while nearly one-third use satellite technology and 20 percent use media retrieval systems.

Small schools are at a decided disadvantage in terms of their use of LANs, WANs, and videodisc technologies, the report shows. Cable penetration is also low among small schools, many of which are located in rural, low-density population areas not served by cable.

However, rural schools and those in districts with higher percentages of poverty-level students are much more likely than their affluent counterparts to use satellite-dish technology. “It appears that satellite dishes are perceived as cost-effective ways to gain access to resources outside the schools’ walls,” the report surmises.

Technology spending

The report suggests federal and state grants continue to provide the lion’s share of school technology funding. Though the federal government’s share of overall education spending is small at 6.6 percent, the federal share of technology spending is closer to 35 percent, the report says.

Technology spending in 1999-00 accounted for nearly 2 percent of total K-12 expenditures, according to the report. While K-12 schools spent 17 percent of their technology budgets on staff development—barely half of the 30-percent figure recommended by the U.S. Department of Education—this marked an increase of three percentage points over last year’s spending on training.

Software accounted for 20 percent of technology expenditures in 1999-00, and hardware accounted for 63 percent.

MDR used a combination of mail, telephone, and internet surveys to poll more than 30,000 schools for its “Technology in Education 2000” report. The surveys were completed in March 2000.


Market Data Retrieval