Block grants aid education tech
- By Brian Robinson
- Jan 30, 2002
Three years and $105 million into a program aimed at outfitting schools
with computers and Internet access, executives of Technology for Educational
Achievement (TEACH) Wisconsin say they are ready to move on to the next,
and perhaps more challenging, phase.
"We are trying to put a lot more effort into staff development now,"
said Doris Hanson, executive director of TEACH Wisconsin. "We have good
infrastructure in place now, but we want to make sure teachers can incorporate
[the technology] into their curriculum."
A fourth round of block grant checks, which have been pegged at $35
million a year since 1999, will be issued to 426 public school districts,
seven charter schools and four secured juvenile correctional facilities
As well as buying computers and software, schools also use the block
grants to pay for such items as monthly T1 and video connection costs. For
some schools in rural areas, Hanson said, block grants could be the only
money available to pay for information technology.
The grants provide an average of $40 per student for IT at recipient
schools, she said.
Since the block grants first were applied, Wisconsin schools have seen
major strides in applying IT in education. Nearly 91 percent of the state's
public school classrooms had Internet access in 2001, compared with 73 percent
in 1999. The ratio of students to each instructional computer dropped to
3.1-to-1 from 4.6-to-1 during the same period.
The percentage of teaching staff with above average or intermediate
skill levels in general computer use rose to 95 percent in 2001 from 28
percent in 1999. Those with similar skills in integrating technology into
classroom instruction also jumped to almost 50 percent from fewer than 9
"The first phase of performance-based budgeting [for technology investments]
was in boosting these kinds of outputs," Hanson said. "The next phase will
be in trying to judge how effective this has been in improving student achievement,
and we hope to start addressing that in the next budget go-around."
Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be
reached at email@example.com.
Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.