School Access to the Internet Limited, Survey Finds
Only a tiny fraction of the nation's classrooms have access to the Internet global computer network, the U.S. Education Department's first comprehensive survey of telecommunications in schools has concluded.
The study suggests that educators have a long way to go to fulfill the Clinton Administration's vision of connecting all classrooms to the information highway.
Only 35 percent of schools surveyed have some Internet access, and only about 3 percent of all school classrooms, laboratories, and media centers have access to the network, the report, "Advanced Telecommunications in Public Schools K-12," says.
"Only a small fraction of our classrooms have real access to new technologies that are becoming so central to the rest of our lives," U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said this month when the report was released.
"As a result, the abundant learning resources available on the information highway are still out of reach for most of our teachers, parents, and students," he added.
The report is based on a survey of 1,500 school-technology coordinators conducted last year by Westat Inc., a Rockville, Md.-based research company hired by the department's National Center for Education Statistics.
Vision Is Far From Fulfilled
The findings confirm what experts in the field already suspected: that the nation's schools are far from achieving Vice President Gore's vision of universal educational access to advanced data networks. (See Education Week, Jan 11, 1995.)
In cooperation with the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Commerce Department, Mr. Riley commissioned the survey to allow future measurements of schools' progress toward that goal. Mr. Gore has challenged the telecommunications industry to connect every classroom to the information highway by the end of the decade.
Among other findings, the report says the greatest barriers to telecommunications use are limited funding; the lack or poor quality of equipment; and an inadequate number of access points in most buildings.
Electronic mail is the most widely used Internet service, the survey found. Larger schools--defined as those with 1,000 or more students--are almost twice as likely as small schools--those with 300 or fewer students--to have Internet access.
Students Shut Out
Although 66 percent of schools with access to the Internet permit teachers and administrators to use the system, only half offer access to students, the report says.
Single copies of the report are available by calling (800) 424-1616 or (202) 219-1513. Multiple copies may be ordered by calling the Government Printing Office's order desk at (202) 512-1800.
Copies of the report also are available on the Internet at gopher.ed.gov, Port: 10,000.