This report presents key findings from the survey "Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools, Fall 2002." For selected topics, data from previous FRSS Internet surveys are presented as well. The findings are organized as follows:
The survey asked whether the schools had access to the Internet. Other data collected allowed for the computation of the proportion of instructional rooms with Internet access. In addition, schools were asked to indicate the type of Internet connections used, as well as the staff position of the person primarily responsible for computer hardware, software, and Internet support at the school.
- In fall 2002, 99 percent of public schools in the United States had access to the Internet. When NCES first started estimating Internet access in schools in 1994, 35 percent of public schools had access (Table 1). In 2002, no differences in school Internet access were observed by any school characteristics. This is consistent with data reported previously (Kleiner and Farris 2002), which showed that there have been virtually no differences in school access to the Internet by school characteristics since 1999.
Instructional Room Access
- Public schools have made consistent progress in expanding Internet access in instructional rooms,2 from 3 percent in 1994 to 77 percent in 2000 and 92 percent in 2002 ( Figure 1 and Table 2).
- In 2002, there were differences in Internet access in instructional rooms by locale (Table 2). A smaller percentage of instructional rooms were connected to the Internet in city schools (88 percent) than in schools located in towns (96 percent) and rural areas (93 percent).
Types of Connections
Over the years, changes have occurred in the types of Internet connections used by public schools and the speed at which they are connected to the Internet. In 1996, dial-up Internet connections (a type of narrowband connection) were used by about three-fourths (74 percent) of public schools having Internet access (Heaviside, Riggins, and Farris 1997). In comparison, in 2001, 5 percent of schools used dial-up connections, while the majority of public schools (55 percent) reported using T1/DS1 lines (a type of broadband connection), a continuous and much faster type of Internet connection than dial-up connections (Kleiner and Farris 2002).
- In 2002, 94 percent of public schools with Internet access used broadband connections to access the Internet (Table 3). This is an increase from 2001 and 2000, when 85 percent and 80 percent of the schools, respectively, were using broadband connections.3 In 2002, as in previous years (Kleiner and Farris 2002), the likelihood of using broadband connections increased with school size; 90 percent of small schools reported using broadband connections to access the Internet, compared with 100 percent of large schools.
- The use of broadband connections increased between 2000 and 2002 from 81 percent to 95 percent in schools with the highest minority enrollment (Table 3). Similarly, the percentage of schools with the highest poverty concentration (as measured by the percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) using broadband connections to access the Internet increased from 75 percent to 95 percent.
- Twenty-three percent of public schools with Internet access used wireless Internet connections in 2002 (Table 4).4 Large schools were more likely than medium-sized and small schools to use wireless Internet connections (37 percent compared with 23 percent and 17 percent, respectively).
- Of the schools using wireless Internet connections, 88 percent indicated that they used broadband wireless Internet connections (Table 4). Across all school characteristics, this percentage ranged from 76 percent to 100 percent.
- In 2002, 15 percent of all public school instructional rooms had wireless Internet connections (Table 5). Differences were observed only by instructional level. A higher percentage of instructional rooms had wireless Internet connections in secondary schools (19 percent) than in elementary schools (13 percent).
Computer Hardware, Software, and Internet Support
- The staff position of the person with primary responsibility for computer hardware, software, and Internet support varied considerably across schools. Thirty-eight percent of schools indicated that it was a full-time, paid school technology director or coordinator; 26 percent, district staff; 18 percent, a teacher or other staff as part of formal responsibilities; 11 percent, a part-time, paid school technology director or coordinator; 3 percent, a consultant or outside contractor; 3 percent, a teacher or other staff as volunteers; and 1 percent, some other position (Table 6 and Figure 2).
- The likelihood that the person primarily responsible for computer hardware, software, and Internet support would be a full-time, paid technology director or coordinator increased with school size, from 29 percent in small schools to 48 percent in large schools (Table 6). Differences were also observed by percent minority enrollment; schools with the lowest minority enrollment were more likely than other schools to report that a full-time, paid technology director or coordinator was the person primarily responsible for computer hardware, software, and Internet support (49 percent compared with 32 to 34 percent in other schools).
More children and adolescents in the nation used computers at school than at home in 2001 (DeBell and Chapman 2003). The survey "Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools, Fall 2002" obtained information on various measures of student access to computers at school, such as the ratio of students to instructional computers with Internet access, student access to the Internet outside of regular school hours, the provision of hand-held computers to students and teachers, and laptop loans to students.
Students Per Instructional Computer With Internet Access
- The ratio of students to instructional computers with Internet access was computed by dividing the total number of students in all public schools by the total number of instructional computers with Internet access in all public schools (i.e., including schools with no Internet access).5 In 2002, the ratio of students to instructional computers with Internet access in public schools was 4.8 to 1, an improvement from the 12.1 to 1 ratio in 1998, when it was first measured (Figure 3 and Table 7).
- However, as in previous years (Kleiner and Farris 2002), there were differences by school characteristics in 2002. For example, 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 poverty concentration (5.5 to 1 compared with 4.6 to 1) (Table 7). Despite this gap, in schools with the highest poverty concentration, the ratio improved from 6.8 students per computers in 2001 to 5.5 per computer in 2002. The difference between schools with the highest and lowest poverty concentrations in the ratio of students per instructional computer with Internet access decreased from 6.2 students per computer in 1998 to 0.8 students per computer in 2002.
Availability of Computers With Internet Access Outside of Regular School Hours
In 2001, 5- to 17-year-olds whose families were in poverty were less likely to use the Internet at their home than 5- to 17-year-olds whose families were not in poverty (47 percent compared with 82 percent) (DeBell and Chapman 2003). Making the Internet accessible outside of regular school hours allows students who do not have access to the Internet at home to use this resource for school- related activities such as homework.
- In 2002, 53 percent of public schools with Internet access reported that they made computers with access to the Internet available to students outside of regular school hours (Table 8). Differences by school characteristics were observed only for instructional level and school size. Secondary schools were more likely to make the Internet available to students outside of regular school hours than were elementary schools (73 percent compared with 47 percent) (Table 8). Similarly, large schools reported making the Internet available to students outside of regular school hours more often than did medium-sized and small schools (79 percent compared with 50 percent for medium-sized and 49 percent for small schools).
- Among schools providing computers with Internet access to students outside of regular school hours in 2002, 96 percent made them available after school; 74 percent, before school; and 6 percent, on weekends (Table 8). Availability of computers with Internet access before school was lower in schools with the highest minority enrollment (62 percent) than in schools with the two lowest categories of minority enrollment (80 percent and 78 percent). A similar pattern occurred by school poverty concentration for the availability of computers with Internet access before school, with 57 percent for schools with the highest poverty concentration, compared with 75 percent and 82 percent for schools with the two lowest categories of poverty concentration. There were no differences by school characteristics for the availability of computers with Internet access after school. In addition, there were virtually no differences by school characteristics for the availability of computers with Internet access on weekends.
- In 2002, schools making computers with Internet access available to students outside of regular school hours reported that students had, on average, access to 49 computers with Internet access (Table 9). No increase was observed in the average number of computers with Internet access available to students outside of regular school hours between 2001 and 2002.
Provision of Hand-Held Computers
- In 2002, 7 percent of public schools provided hand-held computers to students or teachers for instructional purposes (Table 10).6 No differences were observed by school characteristics.
- Among schools providing hand-held computers to students or teachers for instructional purposes in 2002, the median number of hand-held computers provided per school was 9 (i.e., half of the schools reported a lower number than 9 and the other half a higher number) (not shown in tables).7
Laptop Computer Loans
In addition to asking about the availability of computers with Internet access outside of regular school hours and the provision of hand-held computers to students or teachers, the survey asked whether the schools lent laptop computers to students, how many laptops were available for loan, and the maximum length of time for which they could be borrowed. If schools did not lend laptop computers to students in 2002, a question inquired whether they planned to lend them in the 2003–04 school year.
- In 2002, 8 percent of public schools lent laptop computers to students (Table 11).8 In those schools, the median number of laptop computers available for loan was 7 (not shown in tables). This represents 1 laptop computer for 16 students (not shown in tables).9 Fifty-nine percent of schools lending laptop computers reported that students could borrow them for less than 1 week, 19 percent reported that students could borrow them for a period of 1 week to less than 1 month, and 16 percent reported lending laptops for the entire school year (Table 12).
- Of the 92 percent of schools without laptop computers available for loan to students in 2002 (see Table 11), 7 percent were planning to make laptops available for students to borrow during the 2003–04 school year (Table 13). No differences were observed by school characteristics.
Since 99 percent of public schools were connected to the Internet in 2002, most schools had the capability to make information available to parents and students directly via e-mail or through a web site. The survey asked whether the schools had a web site or a web page (for example, a web page on the district's web site), how often it was updated, and who was primarily responsible for the school's web site or web page support.10
Given the diversity of the information carried on the Internet, student access to inappropriate material is a major concern of many parents and teachers. Moreover, under the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA), no school may receive E-rate 12 discounts unless it certifies that it is enforcing a policy of Internet safety that includes the use of filtering or blocking technology.13
Although approximately one-half of public school teachers in 1999 reported that they used computers or the Internet for instruction during class time, and/or that they assigned their students work that involves research using the Internet, one-third of teachers reported feeling well or very well prepared (Smerdon et al. 2000). The survey "Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools, Fall 2002" asked about teacher professional development on how to integrate the use of the Internet into the curriculum.
2Instructional rooms include classrooms, computer and other labs, library/media centers, and any other rooms used for instructional purposes.
3In 2000 and 2001, respondents were instructed to circle as many types of connections as there were in the school. The 2002 questionnaire directly asked whether the schools used broadband and narrowband connections. These percentages include schools using only broadband connections, as well as schools using both broadband and narrowband connections. They do not include schools using narrowband connections exclusively. Broadband connections include T3/DS3, fractional T3, T1/DS1, fractional T1, and cable modem connections. In 2001 and 2002, they also included DSL connections, which had not been an option on the 2000 questionnaire.
4A school could use both wireless and wired Internet connections. Wireless Internet connections can be broadband or narrowband.
5This is one method of calculating students per computer. Another method involves calculating the number of students in each school divided by the number of instructional computers with Internet access in each school and then taking the mean of this ratio across all schools. When "students per computer" was first calculated for this NCES series in 1998, a decision was made to use the first method; this method continues to be used for comparison purposes. A couple of factors influenced the choice of that particular method. There was (and continues to be) considerable skewness in the distribution of students per computer per school. In addition, in 1998, 11 percent of public schools had no instructional computers with Internet access.
6Hand-held computers are computers, or personal digital assistants, small enough to be held in one hand. Examples are Palm Pilots or Pocket PCs.
7On average, 22 hand-held computers per school were provided to students or teachers in schools that supplied such computers in 2002 (not shown in tables). The average number of hand-held computers would decrease to 18 if the data for 1 school in the sample were taken out of the calculation because the school reported a number of hand-held computers much higher (1,000 hand-held computers) than any of the other schools in the sample (ranging from 1 to 140). The number of hand-held computers at that school was verified with the respondent.
8The difference between the percent of schools lending laptop computers to students in 2002 (8 percent) and in 2001 (10 percent) is not statistically significant.
9The ratio of students per laptop computer would increase to 19.9 to 1 if 1 school in the sample were taken out of the calculation because the school reported a number of laptop computers much higher (2,700) than any of the other schools in the sample (ranging from 1 to 850). The number of laptop computers at that school was verified with the respondent.
10In 2001, the questionnaire asked about the school's "web site." In 2002, the wording was changed to "web site or web page."
11This estimate is derived from the percentage of public schools updating their web site monthly, weekly, or daily. Although estimates for the details are shown in table 15, the total in the text is based on the raw data and because of rounding, it differs slightly from the estimate that would be obtained by adding details directly from the table.
12The Education rate (E-rate) program was established in 1996 to make telecommunications services, Internet access, and internal connections available to schools and libraries at discounted rates based upon the income level of the students in their community and whether their location is urban or rural.
13More information about CIPA (Public Law 106-554) can be found at the web site of the Schools and Libraries Division, Universal Service Administrative Company (http://www.sl.universalservice.org/reference/CIPA.asp). The law is effective for Funding Year 4 (July 1, 2001, to June 30, 2002) and for all future years. Schools and libraries receiving only telecommunications services are excluded from the requirements of CIPA.
14An intranet is a controlled computer network similar to the Internet, but accessible only to those who have permission to use it. For example, school administrators can restrict student access to only their school's intranet, which may include information from the Internet chosen by school officials, rat her than full Internet access.