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Statistics in Brief: Advanced Telecommunications in U.S. Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, Fall 1996
NCES: 97944
February 1997


The Survey of Advanced Telecommunications in U. S. Public Elementary and Secondary Schools, Fall 1996 requested information regarding the availability and use of advanced telecommunications in regular public schools and, in particular, access to the Internet, plans to obtain Internet access, use of advanced telecommunications by schools and teachers, and sources of support for advanced telecommunications in schools. Major findings of the survey are as follows:

  • Sixty-five percent of U. S. public schools had access to the Internet in fall 1996 (Table 1). This represented a gain of 15 percentage points in each of the last two consecutive years.

  • Internet access (Table 1).

  • Large schools were more likely to have Internet capabilities than their smaller counterparts. Eighty percent of public schools with 1,000 or more students had Internet access compared with 57 percent of schools with fewer than 300 students and 66 percent of schools enrolling between 300 and 999 students (Table 1).

  • Urban fringe (or suburban) schools reported higher rates of Internet access than schools in rural locales or towns. Seventy-five percent of urban fringe schools were connected to the Internet, compared with 60 percent for rural schools and 61 percent for schools in towns (Table 1).

  • Public schools with high levels of students in poverty were less likely to be connected to the Internet. Internet access was available in about half (53 percent) of schools in which 71 percent or more students were eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program and in 58 percent of those in which 31 to 70 percent of students were eligible.

In comparison, 72 percent of schools with 11 to 30 percent student eligibility for the lunch program had Internet access and 78 percent of those with less than 11 percent free or reduced-price lunch eligibility were connected to the Internet (Table 1).

  • Eighty-seven percent of public schools that did not have access to the Internet had plans to obtain access by the year 2000 (Table 2). Thus, 95 percent of the nation's public schools were expecting to obtain Internet access by the end of the century (Figure 3).

  • In fall 1996, 14 percent of all public school instructional rooms (classrooms, computer or other labs, and library media centers) were connected to the Internet (Table 1). This was more than a fourfold increase since fall 1994, when 3 percent of all instructional rooms had access to the Internet.

  • In 5 percent of public schools on the Internet, Internet access capabilities were not installed in instructional rooms (including classrooms, computer or other labs, and library media centers). Forty-three percent of schools with Internet access provided this access in one instructional room (Figure 2). Twenty-two percent had access in two or three rooms, 4 percent reported four rooms, and 25 percent were connected to the Internet in five or more instructional rooms (Figure 3).

  • Among all public schools, 20 percent of teachers used advanced telecommunications for teaching (Table 5).

  • Thirteen percent of all public schools reported that training for teachers in advanced telecommunications was mandated by the school, district, or teacher certification agencies (Table 6). Thirty-one percent of schools indicated that incentives were provided to encourage teachers to obtain advanced telecommunications training, while in about half (51 percent) of the nation's public schools it was left up to teachers to initiate participation in advanced telecommunications training.

  • Support for advanced telecommunications in all public schools was most frequently provided by local school districts. Eighty-three percent of public schools reported that the school district provided funds for advanced telecommunications (Table 7).

Funds from state or federal government agencies helped support advanced telecommunications in 38 percent of public schools, and 18 percent reported that parents or other community members provided monetary support for the schools' advanced telecommunications. The National Information Infrastructure (NII) initiative, set forth by the President, encourages an acceleration of the goal to connect all of the nation's schools and classrooms, as well as libraries, hospitals, and law enforcement agencies, to the "Information Superhighway." In response to this federal goal, the U. S. Department of Education has commissioned three surveys to obtain data on the status of advanced telecommunications in public elementary and secondary schools. The first obtained baseline data in fall 1994 against which future change could be measured. A followup survey was conducted in fall 1995 and because the status of advanced telecommunications is changing rapidly, a third study, the Survey of Advanced Telecommunications in U. S. Public Schools, Fall 1996, was conducted for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through its Fast Response Survey System (FRSS).

This report presents selected data from the fall 1996 survey; the data were collected from 911 regular public elementary and secondary schools and were weighted to produce national estimates for all regular public schools. Special education, vocational education, and alternative schools were not included in the study. Data presented include the prevalence of Internet access in public schools, the types of Internet capabilities schools make available, use of advanced telecommunications by schools and teachers, and sources of support for advanced telecommunications in schools. Future reports will provide additional study findings, including barriers to the use of advanced telecommunications for students with disabilities.