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Internet Access Soars in Schools, But "Digital Divide"
Still Exists at Home for Minority and Poor Students
Two New Reports Look at Computer and Internet Use in Education


November 3, 2003
Tuesday - 1:00 am

While public schools have made huge improvements in providing computer and Internet access, minority and poor students lack computer access outside of regular school hours, according to two new reports released last week by the National Center for Education Statistics in the department's Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

"The pace of technological change is truly astounding and has left no area of our lives untouched, including schools," said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. "These reports are good news and show how much progress has been made in connecting nearly every school in the nation to the Internet. But there are still big differences in home computer use that need to be addressed before we can declare the digital divide closed.

"We need to address the limited access to technology that many students have outside of school. There is much more we can do. Closing the digital divide will also help close the achievement gap that exists within our schools."

The No Child Left Behind Act continues to support enhancing education through technology and helps to support those students who need it most. Approximately $700 million has been appropriated for educational technology programs in 2002 and 2003.

The first report, "Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2002," is an annual department survey conducted to report on the availability and use of technology in schools. Among its findings:

  • In 1994, 3 percent of classrooms in U.S. public schools had access to the Internet; in the fall of 2002, 92 percent had Internet access; in 1994, 35 percent of schools had access; and in fall 2002, 99 percent had access.
  • In 2002, the ratio of students to instructional computers with Internet access in public schools was 4.8 to 1, an improvement from the 12 to 1 ratio in 1998 when it was first measured.
  • In 2002, the ratio of students to instructional computers with Internet access was higher in schools with the highest poverty concentration than in schools with the lowest. Despite this gap, in schools with the highest poverty concentration, the ratio improved from 6.8 students per computer in 2001 to 5.5 in 2002.
  • In 2002, 53 percent of public schools with access to the Internet reported that they made computers available to students outside of regular hours (96 percent after school, 74 percent before school, 6 percent on weekends).
  • Eighty-six percent of public schools reported that they had a Web site or Web page (75 percent in 2001).
  • Eighty-seven percent of public schools with Internet access indicated that their school or school district had offered professional development to teachers in the schools to help them integrate the use of the Internet into the curriculum in the 12 months prior to the survey.
  • Schools used various means to control student access to inappropriate material on the Internet. Ninety-six percent used blocking software, 91 percent reported that teachers monitored students' access, 82 percent had a written agreement that parents have to sign, 77 percent had contracts that the students had to sign, 41 percent had honor codes and 32 percent allowed access only to an intranet.

The second report, "Computer and Internet Use by Children and Adolescents in 2001," shows that computer and Internet access has become an important component of schoolwork, but that a digital divide still exists:

  • Many children use technology to complete school work: 44 percent use computers and 42 percent use the Internet for their assignments
  • The digital divide still exists in homes: 41 percent of blacks and Hispanics use a computer at home compared to 77 percent of whites.
  • Only 31 percent of students from families earning less than $20,000 use computers at home, compared to 89 percent of those from families earning more than $75,000.
  • White students are more likely than black and Hispanic students to use home computers for completing school assignments (52 percent vs. 28 percent vs. 27 percent).
  • However, racial and ethnic differences in the use of computers seem largely to be a function of home access. No significant differences in usage to complete homework assignments were detected between racial/ethnic groups who had computer access at home.




Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2002

Computer and Internet Use by Children and Adolescents in 2001



Source of News Release:

U.S. Department of Education
Web Site


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