The percentage of public schools wired to the internet has increased to 98 percent–up from 95 percent last year–according to statistics released May 9, but education groups say more work still needs to be done.

Since 1994, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has surveyed approximately 1,000 public schools each year to find out how many are connected to the internet, so the U.S. Department of Education can measure the progress of the nation’s investment in technology.

According to the report, in the fall of 2000, 98 percent of the nation’s public schools had access to the internet, up from 35 percent in 1994. The percentage of classrooms wired to the internet also has increased dramatically. In 2000, 77 percent of classrooms offered internet access, compared to 64 percent last year and three percent in 1994. Unlike previous years, there were virtually no differences in access to the internet by school characteristics–such as poverty level and metropolitan status–in 1999 or 2000, the report said.

For example, in 1997 there was a gap of 24 points between the percentage of the wealthiest schools (86 percent) and poorest schools (62 percent) connected to the internet. In 2000, that gap was only 5 percentage points.

The overall ratio of students to instructional computers reached five to one last fall, better than six to one in 1999. Similarly, the ratio of students to instructional computers with internet access improved. It was nine to one in 1999 and seven to one in 2000.

Despite these advances, education advocates say the battle is not over yet.

“It’s great news and not so great news. We made tremendous strides in the highest-poverty schools, but we’re still not there yet,” said Norris Dickard, senior associate at the Benton Foundation. “There’s enough in this report to show that the job is not done yet.”

In the poorest schools, the ratio of students to internet-connected computers improved from 17 to 1 in 1999 to 9 to 1 in 2000. However, nine students to one computer is still higher than the national average of 7 to 1.

Percentage of schools connected to the internet:
1999–95%
2000–98%

Percentage of classrooms connected to the internet:
1999–64%
2000–77%

Student to computer ratio:
1999–6:1
2000–5:1

Student to internet-connected computer ratio:
1999–9:1
2000–7:1

Student to internet-connected computer ratio in poorest schools:
1999–17:1
2000–9:1

Percentage of schools with computers accessibe after school hours:
1999–unknown
2000–54%