Technology Counts 2008 - STEM: The Push to Improve Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Sponsored Online:
Published Online: March 21, 2008
Published in Print: March 27, 2008, as Tracking U.S. Trends

Tracking U.S. Trends

States vary in classroom access to computers and in policies concerning school technology.

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For the third consecutive year, Technology Counts grades the states on their leadership in three core areas of technology policy and practice: access, use, and capacity. The nation as a whole earns a grade of C-plus, with a majority of state grades residing in the C-minus to C-plus range.

West Virginia, which led the nation this year, was awarded the only solid A. Georgia and South Dakota followed closely behind with A-minus grades.

At the other end of the spectrum, Nevada, Oregon, and Rhode Island earned D’s, while the District of Columbia ranked last, with a D-minus.

Most states showed relatively uneven performance across the three categories of access, use and capacity, with a few notable exceptions.

West Virginia earned marks of A or A-minus across the board. Kentucky, South Dakota, and Virginia also posted consistently strong marks, with all grades in the A to B range.

By comparison, the District of Columbia, Nevada, and Rhode Island were assigned grades ranging from D-plus to F in all three categories.

Incorporating the Internet

In 1994, just over a third of U.S. public schools— 35 percent—had access to the Internet. By 2005, the Internet had penetrated into virtually all elementary and secondary schools, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Thanks largely to the federal E-rate program, which provides telecommunications discounts to eligible schools and libraries, public schools are now connected to the Internet irrespective of size, locale, level of minority enrollment, or poverty status, NCES data show.

The integration of Internet technology into classrooms followed a similar trajectory. Only 3 percent had Internet access in 1994. But by 2005, students in 94 percent of the nation’s classrooms were able to go online.

Small gaps in Internet access between types of classrooms persist when results are broken down by a school’s grade span, size, and student demographics. Classrooms in secondary schools, larger schools, and schools with lower minority enrollment are slightly more likely to have access.

Comparatively larger differences appear when urbanicity is taken into account, however. Students can go online in only 88 percent of inner-city classrooms, compared with 95 percent to 98 percent of classrooms in nonurban schools, the NCES 2005 data show.

Variations by Grade

Yet even though all schools and most classrooms today have computers with Internet access, it is not safe to assume that all students have equal access to them. Technology Counts 2008 bases the access portion of its grades on both the percent of students with computer access and the ratio of students to computers.

The sources for those access indicators are the same as last year: the National Assessment of Educational Progress, sponsored by the federal government, and Market Data Retrieval (MDR), a research company based in Shelton, Conn., that tracks the use of educational technology. Owing to changes in the NAEP access indicators for Technology Counts 2008, rankings in access should not be compared with those from last year, nor should the overall state grades.

Data Download
Technology Leaders: Grading the States PDF
State Technology Grades and Ranking Tables PDF
Computer Access and Tech Help (Chart) PDF

Overall, the nation earned a C in access, but states varied considerably in their performance. South Dakota and Wisconsin provided the greatest access to students and ranked first. At the opposite end of the scale, California, Hawaii, Mississippi, Oregon, and Rhode Island shared the lowest rank.

NAEP data show that student access differs by grade and across states. On average, 95 percent of 4th graders have computer access, with the highest levels of access found in West Virginia, at 100 percent, and the lowest in Hawaii, at 87 percent.

By contrast, only 83 percent of 8th graders have computer access, with considerably more variation among the states. Eighth grade access is highest in Maine, at 100 percent, and lowest in the District of Columbia, at 61 percent.

Another way to assess student access to technology is by examining the number of students sharing each instructional or Internet-connected computer. According to the latest national figures available from MDR, the ratio hovers just under four students per computer.

In Maine and South Dakota, where access is greatest, an average of two students share a computer. California, Delaware, Mississippi, Rhode Island, and Utah have the least-favorable access ratios, of about five students to every one computer.

Putting Technology to Use

States posted their strongest showings for policies capturing the use of technology. Overall, the nation scored a B-minus for technology use, with Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, and Utah tied for the No. 1 spot. The District of Columbia placed last, receiving the only F.

Technology Leadership

The nation earns a grade of C-plus for overall leadership in technology policy and practice, based on an analysis of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia earns the only A, while Georgia and South Dakota receive A-minus marks. Most states show relatively uneven performance across the three main categories used in the analysis: access, use, and capacity.

The vast majority of states detail what students should know and be able to do with technology. Only Iowa, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia currently do not have such state technology standards for students.

Of the states with standards, 26 spell out their technology expectations in stand-alone documents only, while 16 states embed them in the standards of other academic-content areas only. Six states do both.

Among the 22 states that embed technology standards into the standards of other subjects, 15 integrate them within the standards of the four core academic subjects of English, history, math, and science.

Overall, states are slightly more likely to integrate technology standards into science or mathematics, two of the four STEM subjects, than into English and history.

Yet even though most states have technology standards for students, only five states—Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Utah—assess student competence on those standards through a required, state-administered test.

One indicator of student use that appears to be on the rise is the number of states offering computerized statewide assessments to at least some students. Twenty-seven states test some students on computers, up from 23 last year. Ten of those states administer computerized assessments to all students.

More states continue to introduce the option of online coursetaking. Twenty-five states have established or financed statewide virtual schools. Those schools are far more likely to cover middle or high school grade spans than elementary grade spans; only Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, and Missouri have virtual schools that include elementary grades.

Building Capacity

In the category of capacity to use technology, which reflects states’ efforts to ensure the technology competence of their educators, the average grade was a C, with little change from last year.

Georgia, Kentucky, and West Virginia all earned A’s, while five states and the District of Columbia were assigned F’s.

State Technology Reports

View online-only reports for each state with detailed information on Technology Counts indicators.

Most of the policy action in this area has occurred around states’ efforts to write technology standards for educators. Forty-four states have standards for teachers that include technology. Fewer states, 35, have the same for administrators.

Only 19 states have policies that tie initial teacher licensure to technology coursework or competence demonstrated through a test. Nine of those states also have similar requirements for initial administrator licensure.

Even fewer states have comparable policies connecting technology training, competency testing, or professional development to the recertification process. Ten states have such policies for teachers, six have them for administrators, and four have them for both teachers and administrators.

Vol. 27, Issue 30, Pages 39,42

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