Data First

Brought to you by The Center for Public Education

Home > Data Center > Do our students have access to technology?

National Data

According to Education Week’s annual report, Technology Counts, from 2009, the national average for the number of students per instructional computer was 3.8.

In their Ed-Tech Stats document, Education Week reports at the school and district-level on the growth of online curricula, opportunities for online coursetaking, the usage of multimedia, to name a few technological and educational trends.

The State Educational Technological Directors Association (SETDA) provides state by state information on technological initiatives, funding resources and allocations, standards, professional development and the list goes on.

According to SETDA’S 2009 analysis of the Enhancing Education Through Technology (EETT) grant program, allocations to states ranged from a high of $636.5 million in 2004 to a low of $93 million in 2010. The 2010 appropriations of $93 million represent the lowest awarded to the EETT program since its inception. The EETT grant program’s history reaches back to Title II, Part D (Title II-D) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which was then amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 to enable the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to provide state educational agencies (SEAs) with education technology grants through the EETT. It’s primary legislative purpose is to:

• Improve student academic achievement using technology in K-12 schools;
• Assist every student in crossing the digital divide by ensuring that every student is
technologically literate by the end of eighth grade; and
• Encourage the effective integration of technology with teacher training and curriculum development to establish successful research-based instructional methods.

Data Source

Each year Education Week publishes the number of students per instructional computer in its report Technology Counts. The data is available only at the state level.

Summary

Students per instructional computer is one of the best indicators of student access to technology. The measure looks at the number of instructional computers available per student. The data are collected each year by Market Data Retrieval and published by Education Week.

How to Use the Data

According to the President’s Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), the ratio of students per instructional computer should be no higher than five. Data on ratio allows schools, districts, and states to evaluate student access to technology and see how well they match up to the PCAST recommendations.

How the details were measured

The data is reported as number of students per computer available for student instruction. The number is calculated by dividing the total number of public school students in the state by the total number of instructional computers. The data cannot be broken down by race or poverty.

Limitations of the data

The students-per-instructional-computer data only examines student access to a computer. It does not look at how students and teachers use the computers, nor does the data show how computers help student learning.

Key Questions to Ask

How is technology being used in our classrooms?

Some research shows that computers can have an impact on student achievement, but only when the technology is used in certain ways. You should be sure technology is being used appropriately at the local level and that it helps student learning.

Is our technology distributed equitably?

While states and districts have made significant strides in reducing the digital divide, there are still large gaps. Although some states have about 30 percent of their students connected to the Internet, others have almost 70 percent. You should also look at the differences in technology use between students of different social and economic backgrounds.

Is our technology in good working order?

For computers to be successful in classrooms, they should be less than five years old and have Internet capability. Schools and districts should also have support staff in place who maintain instructional technologies and help teachers integrate computers into their lessons.

Learn More

While there are dozens of indicators of access to educational technology—students per Internet-ready computer, percent of schools with high-speed Internet access—most of the data is at the state level. Education Week publishes a number of these indicators as part of its annual report called Technology Counts, which includes information on technology standards and virtual schools. A few states also publish educational technology indicators on their local report cards. For example, North Carolina lists the percent of classrooms connected to the Internet on every school report card.

At the local level, school and district leaders should be sure to examine how technology is being used in the classroom. One recent survey found that only about 30 percent of teachers felt well trained to integrate computers into their lesson plans. But research shows that educational technology will only improve student achievement if it’s employed in specific ways. For instance, one study showed that when teachers used computers to demonstrate higher order concepts, there was a significant bump in math achievement. The same study showed that student use of technology had no impact on student learning and that in some cases, more computer use actually had a negative impact on student test scores. To help teachers use technology, school and district leaders should support high-quality professional development opportunities. The training should be subject-specific and give teachers concrete tips on how to use computers and the Internet to improve student achievement.

While most students have access to a computer at school regardless of their social or economic background, there is still a significant digital divide. Most notably, students from poorer families use computers at home much less frequently then their wealthier counterparts. Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Education Week researchers found that when they examined student use of computers at home, there was a gap of more than 50 percentage points between students from families with incomes below $20,000 and those with families with incomes of $75,000 or more. The study also found gaps between students of different ethnic backgrounds. While 78 percent of white students had access to a computer at home, only 46 percent of black students did.

To learn more about technology in the classroom, see NSBA’s Technology Leadership Network.

Additional Resources

Demonstrating success: Technology motivates students to learn in new ways—Whether it’s virtual classes to meet a student’s particular needs, online courses for credit recovery, technology to help English Language Learners catch up to their peers, or data-driven learning plans, it’s clear that this district’s 7,300 students reap the benefit of innovative learning technology.