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E.D. TAB: Advanced Telecommunications in U.S. Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, 1995
NCES: 96854
March 1996

Selected Findings

The Survey of Advanced Telecommunications in U.S. Public Schools, K-12 requested current information regarding the availability and use of telecommunications and, in particular, access to the Internet, plans to obtain Internet access, use of the Internet, and barriers to the acquisition or use of advanced telecommunications. The data were gathered from a nationally representative sample of 917 public elementary and secondary schools in fall 1995. Some comparisons are made with data collected from a similarly nationally representative sample of schools during fall 1994. For definitions, please see Appendix C: Glossary of Terms.

  • Fifty percent of U.S. public schools now have access to the Internet Table 3. This percentage is up from 35 percent just 1 year ago.
  • Access to the Internet varies by school characteristics (Table 4). Only 31 percent of schools with large proportions of students from poor families (71 percent or higher eligibility for free or reduced-price lunches) have access to the Internet, compared to 62 percent of schools with relatively few students from poor families (less than 11 percent eligibility). Access is also related to school enrollment size--from 39 percent for schools with fewer than 300 students to 69 percent for schools with 1,000 or more students. Secondary schools (65 percent) are more likely than elementary schools (46 percent) to be linked to the Internet.
  • Seventy-four percent of the schools that do not currently have access to the Internet plan to obtain access in the future (Table 13).
  • Funding and inadequate telecommunications access points in the building were the most frequently cited barriers to acquiring or using advanced telecommunications in public schools. Fifty-five percent of schools indicated that funds not specifically allocated for telecommunications was a major barrier, and 54 percent indicated too few telecommunications access points in the building as a major barrier (Table 14).
  • Although half of the nation's public schools already have access to the Internet somewhere in the building and three-fourths of those without access have plans to connect, only 9 percent of all instructional rooms (classrooms, labs, and library media centers) are currently on the Internet (Table 4 and Table 13). This is a three-fold increase compared with fall 1994, when only 3 percent of all instructional rooms had access to the Internet.
  • Public schools report an average of 72 computers including those used for both administrative and instructional purposes (Table 5). However, only 14 percent of all computers in public schools across the country have Internet access. Schools with Internet access report an average of 12 computers connected to the Internet (Table 7).
  • Eighty-five percent of public schools have access to some kind of computer network; 77 percent have computers connected to a local area network and 61 percent have computers with wide area network access (Table 2 and Table 3).
  • In addition to the 50 percent of schools that are on the Internet, 11 percent have access to some other wide area network that does not connect to the Internet, and 23 percent have only a local area network (Table 3).
  • Public schools now are as likely to have a computer with a modem as they are to have cable television (76 percent for each; Table 2). Seventy-one percent have access to broadcast television in their schools. Fewer schools have closed-circuit television (28 percent), one-way video with two-way audio or computer link (13 percent), and two way video and audio (7 percent).
  • In schools with wide area network access, it is generally found in library media centers (68 percent) and to a lesser extent in computer labs (41 percent; Table 2). Only 35 percent of public schools with wide area network access report having this capability in a classroom.
  • The types of telecommunications most often located in classrooms are broadcast and cable television (71 and 76 percent, respectively; Table 2). Although 91 percent of schools with closed-circuit television report having it in the classroom, only 28 percent of schools have this capability.
  • Schools indicate that the school district (63 percent) and teachers and other staff (38 percent) are the two groups most likely to play a large formal role in developing the school's telecommunications program (Table 12). While only 7 percent indicate that parents play a large role, 31 percent cite parents as playing a moderately active role. This is up from 1994, when only 4 percent of public schools indicated that parents played a large role, with 17 percent reporting they played a moderate role (reference Table 12b1).

For the 50 percent of public schools having Internet access in 1995:

  • Seven percent of schools on the Internet do not have access in any instructional rooms (including computer labs, library or media centers, and classrooms), 47 percent have 1 instructional room on the Internet, 24 percent have 2-3 rooms, 4 percent report 4 rooms, and 19 percent of schools can connect to the Internet in 5 or more instructional rooms in the school (Table 6).
  • In fall 1994, 97 percent of schools with wide area networks (49 percent of all schools) could connect to these networks by modem; only 3 to 4 percent used higher speed connections such as T1 (3 percent), 56Kb (4 percent), or SLIP/PPP (3 percent; Table 3 and reference Table 10b1). By fall 1995, fewer schools with Internet access were relying on modems and the use of faster transmission connections had increased markedly. In fall 1995, 61 percent of schools were connected to wide area networks. Most schools still can connect by modem (81 percent), but 23 percent now report having a SLIP or PPP connection, 10 percent connect by a 56Kb, with 7 percent for T1, and 3 percent for ISDN (Table 10).
  • Of the schools with Internet access, 93 percent have e-mail, 83 percent can access resource location services, 80 percent have World Wide Web access, and 73 percent can access news groups (Table 8). While e-mail is the most widely available Internet service in schools, a higher proportion of schools with other Internet services make these other services available to students. Seventy percent of schools with World Wide Web access make it available to students, 62 percent of schools with resource location services make it available to students, and students can avail themselves of news group services in 51 percent of the schools with news group access. Only 41 percent of schools with e-mail provide access for students.
  • Twenty-eight percent of those schools with Internet access report that teachers use the wide area networks to a moderate or large extent, with 21 percent for students and 18 percent for administrators (Table 9).
  • High school students are more likely to use wide area networks than elementary students; 30 percent of high schools report a moderate to large extent of wide area network use by students, as compared with 17 percent of elementary schools (Table 9).
  • Schools manage their networks in a variety of ways. The largest percentage are managed by a part-time administrator (45 percent; Table 11). Twenty-four percent indicate that someone from the district staff administers their network and 20 percent report that no single individual is responsible. Only 12 percent of schools report that their network is administered by a full-time administrator.