Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2002
NCES: 2004011
October 2003


Since 1994, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has surveyed public schools to estimate access to information technology in schools and classrooms. In the fall of each academic year, a new nationally representative sample of public schools is surveyed about Internet access and other Internet-related topics. The results of this survey show what progress has been made since these data were first collected in 1994, and help assess the magnitude of tasks remaining to make the Internet available as an educational tool in all schools.

Although some items, such as those on school and classroom connectivity, have appeared annually on the survey, new items have been added as technology has changed and new issues have arisen. For example, an item on types of Internet connections was added in 1996 and has remained part of the subsequent surveys, with some modifications. The fall 2002 survey included items on access to the Internet outside of regular school hours; technologies and procedures used to prevent student access to inappropriate material on the Internet; school web sites; staff responsible for computer hardware, software, Internet, and web site support; loans of laptop computers to students; and provision of hand- held computers to students and teachers.

This survey was conducted by NCES using the Fast Response Survey System (FRSS). FRSS is designed to administer short, focused, issue-oriented surveys that place minimal burden on respondents and have a quick turnaround from data collection to reporting. Questionnaires for this survey were mailed to a representative sample of 1,206 public schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Data have been weighted to yield national estimates. Detailed information about the survey methodology is provided in appendix A, and the questionnaire can be found in Appendix B.

In addition to national estimates, selected survey findings are presented by the following school characteristics:

  • instructional level (elementary, secondary);
  • school size (enrollment of less than 300, 300 to 999, 1,000 or more);
  • locale (city, urban fringe, town, rural);
  • percent minority enrollment (less than 6 percent, 6 to 20 percent, 21 to 49 percent, 50 percent or more); and
  • percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (less than 35 percent, 35 to 49 percent, 50 to 74 percent, 75 percent or more), which is used as a measure of poverty concentration at the school.

It is important to note that many of the school characteristics used for independent analysis may also be related to each other. For example, enrollment size and instructional level of schools are related, with secondary schools typically being larger than elementary schools. Similarly, poverty concentration and minority enrollment are related, with schools with a higher minority enrollment also more likely to have a high concentration of poverty. Other relationships between analysis variables may exist. Because of the relatively small sample size used in this study, it is difficult to separate the independent associations these variables have with the data of interest. Their existence, however, should be considered in the interpretation of the data.

All specific statements of comparison made in this report have been tested for statistical significance through trend analysis tests and t-tests adjusted for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment,1 and are significant at the 95 percent confidence level or better. However, only selected findings are presented for each topic in the report. Throughout this report, differences that may appear large (particularly those by school characteristics) may not be statistically significant. This is due in part to the relatively large standard errors surrounding the estimates (because of the small sample size), and the use of the Bonferroni adjustment to control for multiple comparisons. A detailed description of the statistical tests supporting the survey findings can be found in appendix A.

1The Bonferroni adjustment was also used for previous FRSS Internet reports. The Bonferroni adjustment is appropriate to test for statistical significance when the analyses are mainly exploratory (as in this report) because it results in a more conservative critical value for judging statistical significance (see the methodology section, appendix A, for a more detailed discussion of the Bonferroni adjustment).