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Computer and Internet Access in U.S. Private Schools and Classrooms: 1995 and 1998
NCES: 2000044
February 2000


In recent years, interest in increasing the use of technology in elementary and secondary education has grown. Numerous initiatives- both public and private- have provided discounted or free computers and Internet access to schools and have encouraged the provision of technology-focused teacher professional development and training (Trotter 1999). These initiatives were predicated on the expectation that the use of technology in education can lead to a number of beneficial outcomes. In Getting America's Students Ready for the 21st Century, for example, the U. S. Department of Education (1996) asserts that technology has the potential to enhance the achievement of all students, increase families' involvement in their children's schooling, improve teachers' skills and knowledge, and improve school administration and management.

To track changes in the availability of and access to technology, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) since 1994 has conducted a series of surveys of public and private elementary and secondary schools. This Issue Brief provides results from the most recent survey of technology in private schools, focusing on trends in the availability of and access to technology from 1995 to 1998. 1 In addition, this Issue Brief reports on the future connectivity plans of private schools not connected to the Internet and on the advanced telecommunications training opportunities private schools offer their teachers.

How prevalent are computers in private schools?

The number of students per computer is the measure commonly used to provide an indication of the prevalence of computers in schools. In 1998, there was an average of six students per computer in private schools, down from nine students per computer in private schools in 1995 (Table 1). In 1995 and in 1998, nonsectarian schools reported fewer students per computer on average than did Catholic schools and other religious schools, and the student-to-computer ratio was lower on average in private secondary than in private elementary schools.

Another common measure of the prevalence of computers in schools is the number of students per instructional computer. 2 This measure excludes computers that may be used exclusively for administrative or other noninstructional purposes. In 1998, the average number of private school students per instructional computer was eight (Table 1). In public schools, there was an average of six students to each instructional computer in 1998 (Rowand 1999). Non-sectarian private schools had a lower average student-to-in-structional computer ratio (6: 1) than did Catholic schools (8: 1) and other religious schools (9: 1). In addition, the student-to-instructional computer ratio was higher in private elementary schools (8: 1) than in private secondary or combined schools (7: 1).

1 "Prospects: The Congressionally-Mandated Study of Educational Growth and Opportunity (1991-1994)."

The first survey of private schools was administered inOctober of 1995, and the second was administered in February of 1999. Because the second survey was administered during academic year 1998-99, it is referred to in this Issue Brief as the 1998 survey. See Heaviside and Farris (1997) for a complete report on the results of the 1995 survey.

2In the 1998 survey, schools were asked how many computers in the school are used for "instructional purposes."