Block grants aid education tech

TEACH Wisconsin

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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

Feb. 4.

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

percent.

"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 protected]

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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