ANNAPOLIS – At a time when Maryland is making progress in wiring classrooms, it still lags behind other states, studies show.
Maryland ranks 39th among the 50 states for the ratio of students per Internet-connected computer, a relatively reliable measure of classroom technology integration, according to Education Week’s “Technology Counts” report.
Meanwhile, a recent state study revealed that access to technology in Maryland schools is becoming more widespread, but that most counties have not yet hit their goals and great disparities exist among school districts.
Maryland could look to Delaware and Alaska as models – the two consistently ranked among the top states, and in the 1999 report they ranked No. 1 and 2 in the ratio of students per Internet-connected computer. Delaware has 5.8 students per each cyberspace port, Alaska, 6, and Maryland 16.5, the national study shows.
In Delaware last year, 91 percent of schools had Internet access from at least one classroom; Maryland’s figure was 62 percent, worse than the District of Columbia at 70 percent.
Bigger states like New York, California and Alabama consistently ranked low.
Maryland’s hook ups are hampered by funding problems, inadequate teacher training and lack of hardware, according The Maryland Business Roundtable for Education 1999 technology inventory, released this month.
And the state has wide discrepancies in technology-savvy schools. Queen Anne’s County and Caroline County rate high in technology integration in classrooms, while Baltimore City is significantly lower – a statistic common in states with large urban centers, which frequently are behind in schoolhouse computer links.
In four of the smaller Eastern Shore counties, 100 percent of the classrooms have Internet access, but only 17 percent of the classrooms in Harford County and 21 percent of Baltimore City classrooms have Internet access.
“The larger systems probably are the ones with the longest way to go. The smaller systems with the smallest number of schools were able to make progress faster,” said Barbara Reeves, director of instructional technology for the Maryland Department of Education.
Financial concerns and community interest also explain some of the discrepancies among school systems and among individual schools within the same system.
“I think some counties have really determined that this is a priority … and others haven’t. Some counties have struggled with funding issues, like Baltimore City and Prince George’s,” said roundtable Executive Director June Streckfus.
Funding problems have contributed to a digital divide, not only among rich and poor students, but among minorities and whites. The largest numbers of minority students are in big city schools that tend to have less money and less access to technology.
The digital divide is even wider at home than it is at school. About 80 percent of affluent students, those with household incomes greater than $75,000, use a computer at home, but only 20 percent of students whose household income is $30,000 or less do, according to Education Week’s report.
Special allocations and private donations to schools in low-income areas are eliminating that disparity, said Ed Friedman, director of Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey.
For instance, the national E-Rate program, a $2.5 billion fund established by the Federal Communications Commission in 1996, pays for Internet connections at schools and libraries in low-income areas.
“It will be at least another five or 10 years before technology is as pervasive in the schools as it is in the workplace,” Friedman said.
Another key to student success with computers, measured by both reports, is teacher training. Those with more hours of technology training were more likely to include educational software and the Internet in lesson plans.
“It doesn’t make sense to invest in the technology unless you invest in the teacher training,” Friedman said. “An enormous amount needs to be done in the colleges of education, which have been way behind on this issue.”
“This governor included teacher training in the technology program, which was a major breakthrough,” said Maryland State Teachers Association president Karl Pence. In his proposed operating budget Gov. Parris Glendening earmarked $1.7 million for the Maryland Technology Academy, which helps teachers learn how to integrate technology into their lessons. – 30 – CNS-2-11-00