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Advanced Telecommunications in U.S. Private Schools, K-12 Fall 1995
NCES: 97394
May 1997

Advanced Telecommunications in Private Schools

The Survey on Advanced Telecommunications in U.S. Private Schools, K-12 was designed to examine several factors associated with the availability and use of advanced telecommunications. The basic infrastructure, including equipment and the ability to link equipment within the school and to the information superhighway, was reported by private schools for fall 1995.

Telecommunications Equipment and Services

While the focus of the study was on Internet access, the survey obtained data regarding a variety of telecommunications equipment, services, and networks available in private schools in fall 1995. These included computers, video equipment, and television. Computers are among the most basic equipment needed to begin a journey on the information superhighway. Without connectivity, however, they do little to link schools with outside sources of information or learning.

Computers

During the fall 1995 academic year, computers were almost universally available. Ninety-five percent of private schools were equipped with computers (Figure 1). Overall, the number of computers in private schools averaged 24 computers per school (Table 10). Including computers used for administrative as well as instructional purposes, the student to computer ratio was 9 to 1. The vast majority of these computers, however, did not allow access to the Internet.

The ratio of students per computer differed by affiliation and instructional level. Nonsectarian schools reported fewer students per computer (6) than Catholic schools (10) and other religious schools (Tables 9 and 10). There were seven students per computer in private secondary schools compared with nine in private elementary schools.

The mean number of computers in private schools varied by religious affiliation, instructional level, and size of enrollment. Catholic and nonsectarian schools had about twice as many computers per school as other religious schools. There were an average of 31 computers per Catholic school and 32 computers per nonsectarian school, compared with a mean of 16 computers in other religious schools (Table 10).

In private secondary schools, the mean number of computers was 50-more than twice that for elementary schools (20 computers) and schools combining elementary and secondary grades (24 computers). By size, private schools with enrollments of 300 or more had an average of 56 computers, compared with 24 computers in schools enrolling 150 to 299 students. Schools with fewer than 150 students averaged 10 computers per school.

Networked Computers

Private schools were asked whether they had a local area network to link equipment and whether they had access to wide area networks including the Internet. Fifty percent of private schools had some sort of computer network, either a local area network, a wide area network, or both (Table 1).

Local area networks, which connect computers, printers and other peripherals in one room, building or campus, were available in 43 percent of private schools (Table 2). Only 29 percent of private schools provided computers with connections or access to a wide area network capable of linking computers in more distant locations.

Although private schools with computer networking capabilities administrative offices were most likely to be connected (71 percent are connected to local area networks and 59 percent are connected to wide area networks), many provided these capabilities in instructional locations as well. More than half the private schools with local area networks reported having this capability in their computer labs (58 percent); while 41 percent of private schools with wide area networks made them available in their computer labs.

Other Telecommunications Equipment and Services

During fall 1995, 48 percent of private schools owned a computer with a modem (Table 2). About half (52 percent) of private schools had broadcast television and 37 percent had cable television. Very few had closed-circuit television (5 percent), one-way video with a two-way audio or computer communications link (5 percent), or two-way video and audio (2 percent).

In private schools with broadcast and cable television, classrooms were most frequently equipped with these capabilities (81 and 75 percent, respectively). Although 99 percent of all private schools with closed-circuit television reported having it in the classroom, only 5 percent of private schools had closed-circuit television.

Private School Access to the Internet by School Characteristics

Twenty-five percent of private schools had access to the Internet during fall 1995 (Table 11). However, access to the Internet varied by school characteristics including religious affiliation, instructional level, size of enrollment, and metropolitan status. Catholic and nonsectarian schools were twice as likely as those with other religious affiliations to be on the Internet. Thirty-five percent of Catholic schools and 32 percent of nonsectarian schools had Internet access, while 16 percent of other religious schools had access to the Internet in fall 1995 (Table 11).

Fifty-seven percent of private secondary schools reported access to the Internet. Less than half that percentage of elementary and combined schools had Internet access; 23 percent of elementary schools and 19 percent of schools combining elementary and secondary grades had Internet access.

School size was related to Internet access. While 13 percent of small private schools enrolling fewer than 150 students were on the Internet, 27 percent of those with 150 to 299 students, and 50 percent of private schools enrolling 300 or more students were connected to the Internet.

The smallest percentage of private schools on the Internet in fall 1995 was found in rural areas. Nearly one-third (32 percent) of private schools located in cities were on the Internet. Twenty-six percent of those in urban fringe areas and 22 percent in towns had Internet connections, while 4 percent of private schools in rural areas had Internet access.

Accessibility of the Internet in Private Schools

A school's access to the Internet does not necessarily mean that the Internet is widely available for students in that school. However, the use of Internet for student learning is largely dependent upon its accessibility. The physical location of Internet access in the school and the number of connected computers are indicative of student access to the information superhighway. Thus, the survey asked for the number of computers and the number of instructional rooms with Internet capabilities. Many small private schools lacked Internet access while larger schools were more likely to be connected to the Internet. Thus, a higher percentage of private school students had access to the Internet in fall 1995 than schools; 41 percent of private school students attended schools with Internet access (Figure 2 and Table 11).

Computers with Internet Access

While almost all private schools had computers in fall 1995, only 9 percent of these computers had Internet access (Table 11). The percentage of computers on the Internet was four times higher in nonsectarian schools than in schools with religious affiliations.

Twenty-three percent of computers held by nonsectarian schools were on the Internet, while 6 percent of computers in Catholic schools and 5 percent of those in other religious schools had Internet access.

In private schools with Internet access, an average of 8 computers per school had access the Internet (Table 12). Private schools with Internet access ranged from 46 percent with one connected computer, 31 percent with two to five connected computers, to 7 percent having six to nine and 15 percent reporting 10 or more of their computers had Internet access.

Nonsectarian schools, combined schools, and large schools with Internet access had the largest number of computers per school connected to the Internet (Table 12). Nonsectarian schools boasted more than four times the number of Internet connected computers as their Catholic and other religious counterparts. Catholic and other religious schools with Internet access averaged 5 computers each on the Internet, while the mean number of computers with Internet access in nonsectarian schools with Internet was 23. Elementary schools on the Internet could access the Internet from 4 computers, on average.

Twice that many computers had Internet access in secondary schools on the Internet. The largest average number of Internet linked computers by level, however, were combined schools with a mean of 20 computers. Large schools on the Internet averaged 14 connected computers compared with a mean of 4 each in small and medium schools (Table 12).

Although private schools provided one computer for every 9 students, there were 99 private school students for every computer with Internet access (table 10). Differences were found in the ratio of students per computer with Internet access in private schools. Nonsectarian schools had one computer with Internet access for every 25 students, whereas there were 174 students for every Internet accessible computer in Catholic schools and 171 students per computer with Internet capabilities in other religious schools (Table 10).

The ratio of students to Internet accessible computers was lower in private secondary and combined schools than in private elementary schools. There were 48 students in private combined schools and 78 students in private secondary schools for every Internet equipped computer (Table 10). By comparison, private elementary schools reported 206 students per Internet accessible computer.

Private schools in rural areas reported higher ratios of students per Internet accessible computer. There were 280 rural private school students per Internet connected computer compared with ratios of 74 to 130 in other locales (Table 10).

Internet Access in Instructional Rooms

Overall, 5 percent of instructional rooms in private schools had access to the Internet during the 1995-96 school-year (Table 11). However, twenty-seven percent of private schools with Internet access reported that there were no instructional rooms with the access (Table 13). Instructional rooms refer to any room used for instructional purposes and include classrooms, labs, media centers, art rooms, rooms used for vocational or special education, etc. An additional 46 percent offered Internet access in only one instructional room in the building. Sixteen percent had 2 to 3 instructional rooms equipped with Internet access, 3 percent had 4 rooms, and 9 percent had Internet capabilities in 5 rooms or more.

Ninety-one percent of nonsectarian schools with Internet access made Internet available for student use in at least one instructional room (derived from Table 13). Only 9 percent of nonsectarian schools with Internet access did not provide it in any rooms used for instruction (Table 13). On the other hand, 35 percent of Catholic schools that have Internet access did not provide this access in any instructional room.

Large schools with Internet access were also more likely to make it available in instructional rooms than medium-sized schools. Seventeen percent of Internet accessible schools with 300 or more students failed to make it available in instructional rooms compared with 39 percent for medium schools. Of schools with Internet access, secondary schools offered Internet in instructional rooms more often than elementary schools.

Availability of Internet Services to Members of the School Community

Schools were asked whether four relatively popular types of Internet services were available at the school and for use by whom in the school community. Of the private schools with Internet access, 94 percent had E-mail, 72 percent could access the World Wide Web, 69 percent had news groups access, and 67 percent could access resource location services (Table 3).

While E-mail was the Internet service most frequently available in private schools for use by the administrative staff (91 percent), a higher proportion of schools with other Internet services made these other services available to students. Seventy percent of private schools with World Wide Web access made it available to students, 68 percent of schools with resource location services made them available to students, and students could avail themselves of news group services in 55 percent of the private schools with this type of service. Thirty-nine percent of schools with E-mail provided access for students.

Wide Area Network Use

The survey obtained information about the extent of use of wide area networks by the school community: the administrative staff, teachers, and students in schools with Internet access. Overall, private schools indicated that administrators, teachers, and students used wide area networks to a moderate or large extent at about the same rate, 27 to 29 percent (Table 14 ). The extent of use differed by type of private school, however. Catholic school administrative staff were twice as likely to use wide area networks to a moderate or large extent (35 percent) than those in other religious schools (17 percent).

Administrative staff also accessed the Internet more frequently in elementary schools (33 percent) compared with secondary schools (18 percent).

Of the schools on the Internet, wide area network use by students was higher in nonsectarian schools than in religiously affiliated schools. Students attending nonsectarian schools were more likely to use wide area networks than those attending religiously affiliated schools; students in 45 percent of nonsectarian schools on the Internet used wide area networks to a moderate or large extent compared with 24 percent of Catholic schools and 21 percent of other religious schools.

Of the private schools on the Internet, 15 percent with 50 percent or more minority enrollment reported a moderate or large extent of wide area network use among students, compared with 27 to 32 percent of schools with 20 percent or less minority enrollment. Sixty-one percent of private schools on the Internet with minority enrollments of 50 percent or more reported no student use of their wide area network.

Connecting to the Internet

Most private schools with Internet access connected through other wide area networks such as America Online, CompuServe, Prodigy, Connect, etc. Seventeen percent had access only through other wide area networks, while 7 percent had direct access to the Internet, including 5 percent with direct access only and 2 percent reporting both direct access and access through other wide area networks (Table 15).

The vast majority of private schools on the Internet relied on modems to connect to wide area networks. Ninety-four percent of private schools used modems to access wide area networks. Smaller proportions (16 percent) had higher speed connections such as Serial Line Internet Protocol (SLIP) or Point to Point Protocol (PPP) (Table 16). Connections via 56Kb, T1, and Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) were rare among private schools (2 to 3 percent for each).

Developing and Administering Telecommunications Activities

Schools were asked to report the extent to which various groups had played a formal role in the development of the advanced telecommunications activities in the school. Private schools indicated that teachers and school staff were the most likely to play a large formal role in developing the schools telecommunications program (41 percent; Table 4). While 15 percent indicated that parents had played a large role, 31 percent of schools indicated that parents played a moderate role in developing the schools' telecommunications activities.

Networks in private schools were managed in a variety of ways. Fourteen percent of private schools with Internet access had a fulltime network administrator to coordinate or manage their systems (Table 17). The largest percentage were managed by a part-time administrator (58 percent) and 28 percent reported that no single individual was responsible.

Plans For Internet Access

During the 1995-96 academic year, 75 percent of private schools were without Internet access. Sixty percent of these schools reported no plans to connect to the Internet in the future (Table 18). Catholic schools were more likely to have plans for future Internet access than other religiously affiliated schools. Fifty percent of Catholic schools without access had plans to obtain Internet access in the future compared with 34 percent of other religious schools.

A majority of secondary schools and those with enrollments over 300 anticipated eventually connecting to the Internet. Of the schools that did not have Internet access, 60 percent of secondary schools planned to connect, compared with 41 percent of elementary schools and 33 percent of combined schools. Sixty-five percent of large schools planned to obtain access to the Internet, while 45 percent of medium-sized schools had such plans. Fewer, 31 percent of small schools, planned to access the Internet in the future.

Barriers To Internet Access

Private schools indicated the extent to which various factors impeded access and use of advanced telecommunications. Schools rated problems such as those associated with equipment and other physical aspects of telecommunications, funding, software, telecommunications service providers, lack of interest , and incompatibility of telecommunications with educational policies of schools. Neither policy (use of technology as an appropriate education tool) nor problems with telecommunications providers were blocking advanced telecommunications in private schools. Student, teacher, parent and community interest were also not lacking. Rather, it was the financial and physical constraints that were holding back the greater acquisition and use of advanced telecommunications in private schools in fall 1995. Sixty-one percent of private schools cited funding as a major barrier to the acquisition or use of advanced telecommunications by the school (Table 19). Lack of equipment or poor equipment was considered a major barrier in 38 percent of private schools, and too few telecommunications access points in the building was perceived to be a major barrier in 36 percent of private schools. These were among the most frequently cited barriers in private schools both with and without Internet access.

Barriers in Private Schools with Internet Access

Forty-six percent of schools with Internet access considered a lack of funds allocated for telecommunications to be a major barrier to upgrading or maximizing the use of advanced telecommunications (Table 20). This was followed by an inadequate number of access points in the building (38 percent) and inadequate equipment (33 percent). Concern about student access to inappropriate materials, lack of teacher awareness regarding ways to integrate telecommunications into the curriculum, and inaccessibility of telecommunications equipment were major barriers in 20 to 24 percent of private school with Internet access.

Among private schools with Internet access, Catholic schools were more likely to cite funds as a barrier to advanced telecommunications than nonsectarian schools. Fifty-two percent of Internet-connected Catholic schools compared with 32 percent of Internet-connected nonsectarian schools considered lack of funds allocated for telecommunications a major barrier to upgrading or maximizing the use of advanced telecommunications in fall 1995.

Inadequate numbers of telecommunications access points in the building was a barrier primarily among larger schools with Internet access. While only 22 percent of the smallest Internet-connected private schools (those with less than 150 students) found the number of telecommunications access points in the school to be a major barrier, 45 percent of those with 150 to 299 students and 43 percent of those with 300 or more students reported the number of access points was a major barrier.

Barriers in Private Schools without Internet Access

Funds were a major barrier to the acquisition and use of advanced telecommunications in a majority (66 percent) of private schools that did not have Internet access in fall 1995 (Table 21). Seventy-two percent of Catholic schools without Internet access cited lack of funds as a major barrier compared with 53 percent of nonsectarian schools without access to the Internet.

In 40 percent of private schools without Internet access, lack of equipment or poor equipment was a major barrier. Private elementary and secondary schools without Internet access reported more problems with equipment than private combined schools without Internet. Equipment deficiencies were a major barrier in close to half of private elementary (45 percent) and secondary (49 percent) schools without Internet access, compared with 28 percent for private combined schools without Internet.

Equipment was also more likely to be a major barrier among urban and suburban private schools without Internet access. Half (50 percent) of private schools without Internet access in cities and 45 percent in urban fringe locales reported inadequate equipment was a major barrier, compared with 28 percent for towns and 21 percent for rural locales.

Overall, 36 percent of private schools without Internet reported that too few telecommunications access points in the building was a major barrier to the acquisition and use of advanced telecommunications. Access points were a more common barrier in Catholic schools without Internet access (44 percent) than in other religious schools without Internet (31 percent). This was also more frequently cited by private schools without Internet located in urban fringe locales (44 percent) compared with rural locales (20 percent).

Overall, 26 percent of private schools without Internet access expressed concern about student access to inappropriate materials. While only 19 percent of Catholic schools without Internet expressed this concern, 31 percent of other religious schools cited this as a major barrier to the acquisition or use of advanced telecommunications in their schools. Private combined schools without Internet access (35 percent) were also more likely than private elementary (23 percent) or secondary (16 percent) schools without Internet access to consider concern about inappropriate materials a major barrier.

Selected Comparisons with Public Schools

Identical information was collected for the same time period from both private and public schools. A few comparisons of selected data are noteworthy. In fall 1995, public schools were twice as likely to have connected to the information superhighway as their private school counterparts.

While one-fourth of private schools had access to the Internet, 50 percent of all public schools had Internet access (Table 1). Public schools also reported Internet access in a greater proportion of instructional rooms, although the numbers were low for both public (9 percent) and private schools (5 percent). Among those with access, 73 percent of private schools on the Internet provided access in one or more instructional rooms, while 93 percent of public schools with Internet access equipped at least one instructional room with access (Table 5).

While on average public schools reported almost three times the number of computers as private schools (72 compared with 24 computers per school), relatively small percentages of these computers had access to the Internet (Table 6) in either private schools (9 percent) or public schools (14 percent).

Overall, about half of private schools had some type of computer network compared with 85 percent for public schools (Table 7). Lower proportions of private schools than public schools reported local area networks as well as wide area networks. (Table 6 and 7).

Patterns of Internet use among students were similar in public and private schools. Twenty-seven percent of private schools and 21 percent of public schools with Internet access reported a moderate or large extent of student wide area network use (Table 8). Similarly, teachers' wide area network use was reported as moderate to large in 29 percent of private schools and 28 percent of public schools on the Internet. Teachers in public schools, however, were more likely to use wide area networks to a small extent than those in private schools, but private schools (23 percent) were twice as likely to report no teacher use of wide area networks than public schools (11 percent) (Table 8).

Private school administrative staff (29 percent) on the other hand, were more likely to use wide area networks to a moderate or large extent than their public school counterparts (18 percent) and about half as likely never to use wide area networks.

Summary And Conclusions

The Survey on Advanced Telecommunications in U.S. Private Schools, K-12 provided valuable information on the status of telecommunications. Those interested in projecting the scope and level of effort that is involved in connecting all American schools and classrooms to the information superhighway will find the data provided by private schools an essential piece of the picture.

While one-fourth of all private schools had Internet access somewhere in the building, fewer were providing this capability in instructional rooms. Only 5 percent of instructional rooms in private schools nationwide had Internet access. To maximize the educational value of online services, Internet needs to be more readily accessible to teachers and students.

The status of advanced telecommunications in private schools varied by school characteristics. The development of telecommunications activities appeared to be further along in private secondary schools and private schools with larger enrollments. More than half of private secondary schools and 50 percent of private schools with enrollments of 300 or more students had Internet access. Sixty percent of secondary schools and 65 percent of large schools that were not connected planned to obtain access in the future. Seventy percent of private secondary school students were enrolled in schools with Internet access.

Differences in telecommunications activities were also found by school affiliation. Thirty-two percent of nonsectarian schools had Internet access. This is similar to Catholic schools (35 percent of Catholic schools had Internet access) but twice the rate of Internet availability in other religious schools (16 percent). The percentage of instructional rooms with Internet access was highest in nonsectarian schools-13 percent compared to 4 percent in Catholic and 2 percent in other religious schools. In addition to having a lower student to computer ratio (6 students per computer compared to 9 to 10 computers per student in other private schools), nonsectarian schools reported significantly lower ratios of students per computer with Internet access. There were 25 students for every computer with Internet access in nonsectarian schools, compared with ratios of 174 in Catholic schools and 171 in other religious schools. Students in nonsectarian schools that had wide area networks were more likely to use the Internet to a moderate or large extent than those in religiously affiliated schools (45 percent compared with 21 to 24 percent). Thirty-eight percent of nonsectarian schools without access indicated that they had plans to connect to the Internet in the future.

Catholic schools were among the most likely to have Internet access. Thirty-five percent of Catholic schools were connected to the Internet, compared with 16 percent for other religious schools. Also, Catholic schools not connected to the Internet were more likely than other religiously affiliated schools to have plans to connect to the information superhighway in the future. However, only 4 percent of all instructional rooms in Catholic schools had Internet access. On average, Catholic schools reported 31 computers per school, but only 6 percent of the computers in Catholic schools had Internet access and there were 174 Catholic school students for every available computer with Internet access in Catholic schools. Still, 27 percent of Catholic schools with Internet access reported a moderate to large extent of teacher use and 24 percent reported a moderate to large extent of student use of wide area networks.

Other religious schools reported lower rates of Internet access-16 percent compared with 32-35 percent for nonsectarian and Catholic schools, respectively. On average, other religious schools had fewer computers than other private schools (16 compared with 31 to 32) and reported a higher student to computer ratio (9) than nonsectarian schools (6). Only 2 percent of instructional rooms were equipped with Internet access in other religious schools, which reported 171 students for every computer with Internet access-a ratio comparable to Catholic schools (174) but much higher than nonsectarian schools (25). Twenty-three percent of other religious schools with wide area networks reported that teachers used the Internet to a moderate or large extent and 21 percent reported moderate to large extent of student use. About one-third (34 percent) of other religious schools without Internet access indicated that they had plans to connect in the future.

The goal of the National Information Infrastructure is to connect all classrooms to the information superhighway. This study indicates that while many private schools had advanced telecommunications technologies by fall 1995, most did not have Internet access. Further, even in schools with Internet, these technologies were not readily available in instructional rooms for students use. It is possible that many private schools connect administrative offices to the Internet first, and as funding and more computers become available, additional access is provided in classrooms and computer labs. Future research could shed light on the pattern of acquisition and implementation of technologies in private schools. Future research might also consider schools' plans and initiatives for teacher development in the use of advanced telecommunications in the classroom. This would contribute to a better understanding about the implementation and integration of technologies in the classroom and whether priorities differ by instructional level, program, or subject.

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