The Buckeye State continues phasing in school districts as part of the Third Frontier Network, a statewide fiber-optic system that links K-12 schools with higher education and promotes research and education opportunities.
Ohio education officials expect to work through the summer of 2006 to increase the bandwidth of the network in seven large urban districts and at 23 data-acquisition sites, regional service providers that receive state funding for managing data and supporting technology in schools.
The state also presses on with its most aggressive technology plan, SchoolNet Plus, which aims for a ratio of students to classroom computers of 5-to-1. Ohio has met the goal in grades K-6, but cannot calculate the ratio in 7th grade until districts submit their financial reporting forms in September of this year. Grade 7 has been a target for support the past two fiscal years as Ohio’s money from a multistate tobacco settlement—which is used to pay for classroom computers—continues to dwindle, says Carly M. Glick, the communications officer for the Ohio SchoolNet Commission. That agency oversees the state’s educational technology programs.
The commission also has been working with the state education department on an online professional-development system. As of January 2005, more than 1,000 educators had enrolled in the 18 online courses being offered three times a year. State officials want to increase the number of classes over the next couple of years, hoping to draw as many as 8,000 participants annually as more teachers search for flexibility in meeting “highly qualified” standards mandated under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That goal depends on funding as well.
Because of declining state funds for educational technology, Ohio relies heavily on federal funds. The commission is using $9.9 million in federal money to help students become technologically literate by 8th grade. Under the federal Enhancing Education Through Technology initiative, individual schools in more than 200 of the state’s 612 districts compete for funding for educational technology efforts in mathematics and English/language arts.