What the Numbers Don’t Say

haulin netThe recent survey on NC Teacher Working Conditions shows that 71% of our school system teachers agree that they have sufficient access to instructional technology and bandwidth. Why then all the clamor from our schools that we are in dire straits when it comes to computers?

I called Carolyn McKinney, who handles the survey for the Governor’s office. She was clear that the question is about teacher access. She said if we wanted to know if students had sufficient access we should rephrase the question from

Teachers have sufficient access to instructional technology, including computers, printers, software, and internet access.

to

Students have sufficient access to instructional technology, including computers, printers, software, and internet access.

Makes perfect sense to me. See, over the last three years, we have focused our limited resources on ensuring that computers on teachers’ desks meet very high standards. We have done this not only in preparation for the rollout of NC’s new student management system, but also so that teachers may use their computers for demanding video presentation functions like United Streaming.

But we have done this at the expense of student access.

Another report, the NC Report Cards, shows that our instructional computer to student ratio is 1 : 2.49. This is another nifty little number that needs some bearing out. Using the same data set, the 2006 Annual Media and Technology Report, we can examine the Pentium IV class of computers.

  • In general, our 8250 students will only access those that are labeled as instructional, not administrative.
  • According to the data, that leaves 1188 Pentium IV computers in classrooms, media centers and labs.
  • Now, our modern instructional computer to student ratio has become 1 : 7.
  • We can winnow this further. All 541 Pentium IV classroom computers are on teachers’ desk (part of the aforementioned initiative.) Students may have limited access to these based on teaching style and logistics.
  • Further still, 306 Pentium IV’s in that same data set are relegated to Career and Technical Education classes. So they, too, can not fairly be counted as accessible to the general student population on a routine basis.
  • This leaves in play for general student access only modern computers in media centers and labs.

Here I will depart from the above data set and give an up-to-date accounting of student access to modern computers in our media centers and labs. For this current inventory, we defined modern computer as one with the XP operating system, a system that was first released five years ago.

As of February 2007, our modern instructional computer (in media centers and labs) to student ratio is 1 : 18.

Our school system faces a serious challenge of providing modern computers for students to use in media centers, labs, and classrooms as they prepare for the future. Our $1.2M Hardware Acquisition local budget request for 2007-2008 will go a long way towards providing that access.

With our massive accountability push, NC may be at the epicenter of school data reporting. But the numbers do not always tell the whole story and, therefore, can be misleading.

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One Response to What the Numbers Don’t Say

  1. James Butler says:

    Pentium …. what is that? Just kidding. My classroom computers take 20 minutes to boot because the software is too advanced for the processor. I’m running Vernier lab programs copyright 1994, the processors cannot handle the “free” upgrades that the company offers. I could go on but it would just be sad.

    When it comes to technology, we as teachers have grown to accept that it could always be worse. Sixteen very slow computers are still better than none at all. Frankly, upon arriving at Croatan High I was excited to see any computers in the classroom. The Jacksonville High School Science Lab that I left only had two electrical outlets in the entire room, so we could not have plugged them in if we did get any.

    The harsh reality that I have come to accept is the tax payers and leadership (county commissioner) will never adequately fund technology. Of this I am 100% certain. We will always be behind the technology curve. I am just thankful we are not still using stone tablets to write on. You can get used slide-rules real cheap on e-bay!

    But keep fighting the fight Joe!!!!

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