School Web Access Soars, Digital Divide Still Remains
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In the last eight years, Internet access in U.S. public schools has grown from 3 percent to 99 percent, but the digital divide still exists in homes with 41 percent of blacks and Hispanics using a computer at home compared to 77 percent of whites, according to two reports released Wednesday by the Department of Education.
One of the reports, Computer and Internet Use by Children and Adolescents in 2001, concludes that only 31 percent of students from families earning less than $20,000 use computers at home, compared to 80 percent of those from families earning more than $75,000.
"The pace of technological change is truly astounding and has left no area of our lives untouched, including schools," said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. "These reports are good news and show how much progress has been made in connecting nearly every school in the nation to the Internet. But there are still big differences in home computer use that need to be addressed before we can declare the digital divide closed."
Paige added, "We need to address the limited access to technology that many students have outside of school. There is much more we can do. Closing the digital divide will also help close the achievement gap that exists within our schools."
The Dept. of Education surveys show many children are using technology to complete school work: 44 percent use computers and 77 percent use the Internet for their assignments. White students are more likely than black and Hispanic students to use computers for completing school assignments (58 percent vs. 28 percent vs. 27 percent).
However, racial and ethnic differences in the use of computers seem largely to be a function of home access. No significant differences in usage to complete homework assignments were detected between racial/ethnic groups who had computer access at home.
The other Education report, Internet Access in U.S. Public Schools and Classrooms: 1994-2002, is an annual department survey conducted to report on the availability and use of technology in schools. Among its findings:
The No Child Left Behind Act supports enhancing education through technology and helps to support those students who need it most. Approximately $700 million has been appropriated for educational technology programs in 2002 and 2003.