School Gains Incomplete, Industry Report Finds
A report from the nation's information-technology industry pats educators on the back for raising student achievement and the availability of classroom technology over the past decade, but suggests there is much more work to be done to prepare the nation's future workforce.
The report from the American Electronics Association, which was released this month, draws its conclusions from extensive published national and state data—notably scores on the SAT, the ACT, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, and government and private technology surveys.
The 3,500 companies represented by the Washington-based association are worried about their future workforce, said Michaela D. Platzer, the AEA's vice president of research, in explaining why the report was undertaken.
"We are an industry driven by knowledge, and people with high skills," said Ms. Platzer, the author of the report. "Students aren't developing skills necessary to succeed in this industry."
The report, "CyberEducation 2002," expands on a 1999 study that focused on higher education and the numbers of college graduates who majored in engineering, engineering technology, mathematics, and the sciences. "It's a pipeline issue," Ms. Platzer explained. "We can't resolve the higher education problem without K-12 [improvements]."
The analysis concludes that the nation's students are improving in math, more students are completing courses that prepare them for college, and more students are completing high school and earning college degrees. In addition, the report notes that nearly all states have implemented math and science standards.
These constitute "dramatic improvements" in education over the past 10 years, Ms. Platzer said.
The report also says that computers and Internet connections have become nearly ubiquitous in classrooms, although Ms. Platzer said it was premature to find evidence of a link between access to technology and gains in academic achievement.
Still, many of the gains schools have made are incomplete, the report concludes.
Technology in schools is often not integrated into classroom instruction, it finds. Science achievement lags, and improvements in math achievement need to continue, especially among female and minority students.
The report notes, for example, that although math scores are increasing, only 17 percent of 12th graders scored at or above "proficient" in math on the 2000 NAEP test. Meanwhile, 12th grade science scores have been falling.
And although 49 states have implemented standards in a number of subject areas, including science and math, the variability of those standards is considerable, Ms. Platzer said.
The state-by-state comparisons that make up much of the 153-page report show "it really is a mixed bag in terms of who's doing well," she said.
California, for instance, came out looking the worst in the report's state-by-state section. The state fared "very poorly on a host of indicators, everything from technology use in the classroom, in which [it] ranks at the bottom," to lagging behind in achievement tests. California is also near the bottom in high school graduation rates, Ms. Platzer said.
States at the top of the report's list of academic achievement include Wyoming, South Dakota, and Nebraska—states that are ethnically homogenous, rural, and low in population. But Massachusetts, a relatively urban state with a large, diverse population, also showed high achievement, Ms. Platzer noted.
South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, and North Dakota were the nation's top-ranked states for technology use in the classroom.
The industry group held back from making policy recommendations.
"We trust educators," Ms. Platzer said. "And there doesn't seem to be one particular answer in terms of developing the best possible K-12 system."
Douglas H. Clements, an education professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo, said the industry report—like the report in 2000 from the National Commission on Mathematics and Science Teaching for the 21st Century, known as the Glenn Commission—could be useful in communicating the needs of schools to the business community and policymakers.
Vol. 21, Issue 20, Page 10