Educational technology funding in Kansas has been in the midst of a crisis, as legislators scramble to restructure the state’s entire school financing system.
In January 2005, the Kansas Supreme Court declared the current finance system inadequate and gave the legislature until April 15 to fix the problem. State spending per pupil has remained unchanged for the past three years, at $3,963, requiring school districts to pay for most of their technology programs through local taxes and bond issues.
Despite the financial emergency, some technology initiatives are moving ahead in the Sunflower State.
A record number of schoolchildren are choosing to take the 2005 state assessment via computer, rather than through the traditional pencil-and-paper testing method, says John C. Poggio, a professor of educational measurement at the University of Kansas’ school of education and the director of the Kansas Computerized Assessment program, based at the university’s Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE). It was awarded a contract by the state to oversee computerized testing.
Fifty-eight thousand more test parts were administered in the first two weeks of testing in the spring of this year than were administered in the entire six-week testing period in 2004, Poggio reports. Officials at the CETE expect between 100,000 and 120,000 online tests will be taken this spring.
In spring 2005, the state was offering online tests for all grades in all required subjects: reading, mathematics, social studies, and science. Last school year, online tests were available only for students taking the state reading and math tests in 4th, 5th, 7th, 10th, and 11th grades. Eighty percent of districts administered the tests online, resulting in participation in that means of testing by 30 percent of all the students who were required to take the standardized tests.
Internet-based learning is also gaining popularity. KAN-ED—a telecommunications network that connects schools, universities, libraries, and hospitals—offered 15,000 hours of distance learning, mostly for K-12 students, in the 2004-05 school year. More than 100 teachers took part in the program, which started in fall of 2003, by conducting more than 500 courses through videoconferencing technology.
The 2003 bill authorizing the use of federal funds for the $10 million-a-year program is due to expire on June 30 of this year. Legislation has been introduced in the Kansas House of Representatives to extend the program’s funding to 2010.