State spending on educational technology, which has not been available for the past two years due to persistent state budget deficits, is increasing in Oklahoma.
Revenue from a new education lottery and expanded gaming revenues from Indian reservations, are expected to generate around $150 million, which will fund a variety of education initiatives in the 2005-06 school year, including spending on school technology.
Meanwhile, all 7th graders in Oklahoma are scheduled to take the state geography test online in spring 2005, making the effort the first statewide program for online testing in the Sooner State.
The 7th grade tests will serve as an indicator of the Oklahoma Department of Education’s readiness to eventually conduct all state assessments online, says J.P. “Phil” Applegate, the department’s executive director of instructional technology and telecommunications. San Antonio-based Harcourt Assessment Inc. will administer the tests.
Other online education efforts in Oklahoma are also taking off.
The state education department’s 2004-05 Survey of School Technology found that 98 online courses were offered for credit in various school districts, and that the percentage of districts allowing students to take Web-based courses for credit had nearly doubled, to 32 percent, in the past year. Of the state’s 540 school districts, 170 allow students to receive credit for Internet courses, and 77 use distance learning to provide Advanced Placement courses.
State education officials are also trying to increase computer-based learning in schools by participating in the national Personal Access = Learning Success, or PALS, pilot program.
The program, which was started in 2001 and is underwritten by the federal Fund for the Improvement of Education, provides students with individual hand-held computers for an entire school year. The devices provide access to online content, interactive activities, and e-mail collaboration through a server-based system. Since 2001, about 3,000 elementary, middle, and secondary school students participated in the program in Oklahoma, the largest state pilot nationally, according to Applegate.
The state education department is seeking more federal funds, he says, to help it collect and analyze data on the program’s effectiveness.