The American Association of School Administrators and the Lightspan Partnership Inc. reported findings from a national poll of educators' views on technology. They also presented a study by Fordham University researchers who found that technology helped improve student performance in a troubled New York City elementary school with a concentration of low-income students.
Market Data Retrieval, a unit of Dun & Bradstreet Corp. based in Shelton, Conn., collects information about the education market for educators and companies that sell school supplies.
The American Association of School Administrators, based in Arlington, Va., is a professional association of educational leaders. In response to growing public debate over the merits of educational technology, the group joined with the Lightspan Partnership, an educational software and Internet products company based in Carlsbad, Calif., to commission a poll of educators..
Seventy-eight percent of the 811 educators polled said they had seen some improvement in student achievement with technology, such as higher test scores and the percentage of students performing on grade level. Fifty-nine percent reported seeing moderate to significant increases in student achievement, while 11 percent saw no improvement.
Ninety-five percent of those polled believe technology is important in motivating students to learn, and 95 percent also said greater access to technology would help students now struggling in school. In fact, 92 percent said technology was an integral part of improvement plans for such students.
``Educators have seen the value of technology,'' said Bernice Stafford, Lightspan's vice president of school marketing and evaluation. ``They understand to keep the funding for this valuable resource . . . that the accountability has to be in place.''
She said the poll results correspond with findings of Fordham University researchers who analyzed technology's impact on the performance of 57 third graders at a low-income Bronx elementary school with a history of academic failure.
Last fall, the school began using Lightspan's curriculum-based technology program. Paul Tainsh, a research associate in Fordham's Graduate School of Education, said that after one year, 56.6 percent of the students scored at or above grade level in reading, compared with 36.8 percent of students in a control group who did not use the software. In math, he said, 67.7 percent scored at or above grade level compared with 44.9 percent of the other students.
Educators participating in the poll said they are concerned that few students from low-income families have computers at home. And while school districts spend most of their technology budgets on hardware, educators said they need more instructional software and teacher training.
Technology training was also highlighted in Market Data Retrieval's report, which found that 36 percent of the schools in its survey offered teachers no technology training. Twenty-nine percent said teachers were offered between one and 14 hours each year, while 16 percent indicated they offered teachers 15 to 29 hours annually. Eleven percent reported providing 30 to 59 hours of training, and 8 percent said they offered more than 60 hours of technology training each year.
``It seems apparent that if the goal is to have more teachers at the advanced skill level . . . , then more technology-related professional development needs to be provided,'' the report said.
The document calls timely improvements to teacher training ``one of the biggest technology challenges facing schools.''
Kathleen Brantley, Market Data Retrieval's K-12 product manager, said this was the first time a teachers section was included in the survey.
``There is a lot of technology out there,'' she said. ``But what are teachers doing with it?''
Overall, 23 percent of schools surveyed said nearly all teachers use computers daily for instructional planning or instruction. But 22 percent reported that none of their teachers use computers every day.
Brantley said the report also found evidence that the push to connect school computers to a network is having an impact. The percentage of schools tied to local area networks jumped from 65 to 78 in a year's time.
She said the survey also found that the number of students who share computers equipped with a CD-ROM drive and a sound card has dropped from a ratio of 21.2 students per machine to 13.5 to 1.
``That is dramatic,'' Brantley said.
And, for the first time, she said, the bulk of the instructional computers - 49.7 percent - are in classrooms where they are easily accessible to teachers, instead of computer labs (41.1 percent), libraries (7.6 percent) or elsewhere in the building (1.5 percent). The 122-page document also reported:
* The percentage of public schools with Internet access jumped from 70 percent in 1997 to 85 percent this year.
* The average student-to-computer ratio dropped from 7.3 students per machine to 6.3 per machine. (The report says Pennsylvania schools are at the national average, while New Jersey's ratio is slightly higher, 6.7 to 1.)
* In the last five years, the number of computers used for instruction skyrocketed from 3.6 million in the 1992-93 school year to 7.4 million in the 1997-98 school year.
* Schools are replacing outdated equipment. Now, 44.5 percent of PCs are equipped with at least Pentium processors, although 27.3 percent of machines still are powered by 386 processors or less. Nearly 29 percent are 486s.
* Schools with Apple machines are replacing the older Apple II models with faster Macintosh machines.