US Schools All But Wired

Virtually all public schools in the US are now connected to the Internet and classroom hook-ups have increased 20-fold since 1994, according to the US Education Department.

According to the report “Internet Access in US Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-1999” by the US Education Department’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), the percentage of public schools connected to the Internet has increased each year. Internet access in schools increased from 35 to 95 percent and classroom connections increased from 3 to 63 percent from 1994-99.

During the same period, public schools also upgraded their network connections and the speed at which they are able to connect. By 1999, US schools were six times as likely to use faster dedicated-line networks (63 percent) or other high-speed technologies (23 percent), than simply dial-up connections (14 percent).

In addition, the ratio of students per instructional computer with Internet access decreased from 12 to 9 from 1998 to 1999, although differences remain across schools with different characteristics. For example, medium-sized and large schools had more students per computer with Internet access than small schools, 9 and 10 students compared to six students. Schools in cities had more students per computer with Internet access (11) than schools in rural areas (7). Schools with the highest concentration of poverty had 16 students per instructional computer with Internet access, compared to seven among schools with the lowest concentration.

“We need to continue our efforts to ensure that all schools and students have equal access to the vast network of information on the Internet,” Riley said. “Because technology can improve student performance and provide the competitive schools necessary for future success, it is critical that we provide a link for those in the smallest towns to the largest cities.”

Other survey findings include:

  • While 74 percent of classrooms in low-poverty schools are connected to the Internet, only 39 percent of classrooms in high-poverty schools have Internet access
  • 48 percent of schools with the highest concentration of poverty indicate that state and federal government programs were their primary source of support, compared to 14 percent of schools with the lowest concentrations of poverty.

The NCES survey was sent to a nationally representative sample of about 1,000 public elementary and secondary schools in the fall of 1999.

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