Oregon is building on several efforts to improve how schools use technology, relying on local and federal money for support.
The legislature last promised technology money to school districts in 1999. At the time, it gave $50 million to provide the state’s 287 high schools and 21 educational service districts with high-speed Internet access, as well as videoconferencing equipment.
Since then, federal dollars have helped fill the void, state officials say. For the 2004-05 school year, for example, Oregon received nearly $6 million for technology from federal efforts related to the goals of the No Child Left Behind Act, with half the money available to districts as competitive grants.
But for the 2005-06 school year, that total will drop to $4 million, with funding uncertain thereafter, says Carla Wade, the state department of education’s technology education specialist.
Virtual learning is one area that has benefited from the federal aid. Oregon now has 10 district-sponsored online schools—up from eight for the 2003-04 school year, says Camille L. Cole, the state’s e-learning distance education coordinator. The online schools, which offer a total of 300 courses, help extend the curriculum in a rural state, Cole says.
Oregon’s online-testing program is making strides too. This school year, students at 1,100 schools took state tests online, up from 1,000 schools in 2003-04, says Chris Minnich, the project manager for the Technology Enhanced Student Assessment System. Students take online versions of state reading, math, science, and social studies tests.
In addition, the state is offering more “adaptive” online tests, which adjust the level of difficulty based on how a test-taker answers questions. During the 2003-04 school year, students in grades 3, 5, 8, and 10 could take such tests in mathematics; this year, the state also offered those grades adaptive online tests in reading and provided an adaptive science test for 10th graders, Minnich says.
Oregon is working to consolidate its numerous student- and staff-data systems. Lawmakers have allocated $1.8 million over the next two years to study how to achieve a unified system, says Doug Kosty, the state’s assistant superintendent for assessment and information services. A proposal is due in 2007.