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Pennsylvania Undertakes School-Computer Plan

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Pennsylvania state officials late last month announced a series of moves intended to bring more of the state's public-school students into the computer age, including a goal of compulsory computer courses for 8th graders by 1984.

"It is obvious that economic development in Pennsylvania will rely on the ability of young people to use computers," said Secretary of Education Robert G. Scanlon. "We are trying to ensure that we graduate students who have these skills."

The state will use about $800,000, or one-fifth, of its discretionary share of this year's federal block-grant funds for the initiative. It will award grants of up to $4,000 to teachers who will develop ways of using computers in the classroom and grants of up to $40,000 to groups helping to train teachers to use the new technology.

Mr. Scanlon said the state will also spend $800,000 of its special-education funds to support a similar competitive grant program for teachers who are working to find ways of using computers in the education of the handicapped.

The Pennsylvania department of education, in cooperation with 25 teachers around the state, has developed its own computer-literacy course. The course has been successfully pilot-tested, Mr. Scanlon said, and in January will be available nationwide through a commercial publisher.

A survey of the state's school systems shows that they have spent $3 million to $4 million of the $17 million they received this year in federal block-grant funds on computer hardware. The state has aided school systems interested in using computers by coordinating a bulk-buying program.

The state spent $5 million buying computers for its vocational-education programs last year and plans to spend a similar amount in the area this year.--tt

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