Thursday, May 10, 2001

Students at Dole Middle School had Internet capabilities
back in 1997. Today, all of Hawaii's public schools
have 'Net access.

Isles lag in
school computer

A report also says poorer
isle schools have more
computers than wealthier ones

By Christine Donnelly

Kids in Hawaii's public schools have less access to computers and the Internet than the average American public school student, according to a nationwide comparison of technology in the classroom.

But unlike the United States as a whole, Hawaii schools with a high percentage of financially disadvantaged students have more computers per pupil than public schools with wealthier students, according to Education Week's Technology Counts 2001.

"It's significant that Hawaii is below the national average overall, but when looking only at high-poverty schools, it actually moves up to the top 10" for computer access, said Ronald A. Skinner, among the researchers of the report released today.

The state has made a concerted effort to upgrade technology at those schools, making use of nearly $14 million in federal funding aimed at improving school technology in Hawaii's poorer and rural areas, he said.

In addition, Hawaii's unique statewide funding system tends to create greater equity than elsewhere.

On the mainland, schools are primarily funded by property taxes, leaving schools in wealthy neighborhoods better off than those in poor ones.

While it is good that poor and rural schools are getting better access to instruction in the latest technology, "overall Hawaii is still below average, and that means there are other schools out there that don't have enough computers," Skinner said. "The goal obviously is going to be equity among all groups."

There was one instructional computer for every 5.8 students in Hawaii, compared with a U.S. average of one instructional computer for every 4.9 students.

Wyoming had the best ratio -- three students per computer -- while California had the worst at 7.2 students per computer, the report said.

When breaking those figures down between high-poverty and low-poverty schools (as defined by the percentage of students eligible for the federal government's free- and reduced-price lunch program), the report found there was one instructional computer for every five students at Hawaii's high-poverty schools and one instructional computer for every 6.4 students at Hawaii's low-poverty schools. For the U.S. average, those figures were 5.3 students and 4.7 students, respectively.

Hawaii students also had less access to the latest multimedia and Internet-connected computers than the average U.S. student. But again, students at poorer schools had better access than those at wealthier schools in Hawaii.

The report said that Hawaii was one of only three states nationwide to have Internet access at 100 percent of its schools, including access from at least one classroom at 91 percent of the schools statewide.

Although Hawaii's academic standards include what students should learn and know about technology, there are no technology requirements that teachers must meet to be licensed.

"A lot of other states are requiring that expertise before the teacher can be hired," Skinner said.

Overall, he said, Hawaii seems to be on the right track but needs to get more computers into the classrooms, where students can use them not only to learn the latest computer technologies, but also as research and writing tools for other core subjects.

Gov. Ben Cayetano had wanted the Legislature to fund $21 million in the just-ended session to buy 18,000 new computers for public schools, a move he said would have reduced the ratio to four students per computer statewide.

But the Legislature did not fund the request, which was not part of the Board of Education's original budget proposal. Cayetano has said the Legislature cut his request to help fund raises for the state's public workers, including teachers.

"This report underscores the need behind our initiative to expand computer capabilities in schools," Cayetano said yesterday.

"Our kids need this access to technology if they are to have doors opened to them in the future.

"It is one of the single most important tools we can give them. We were disappointed that the Legislature didn't adopt it and are committed to pressing ahead again next year."

To see the complete report, released today, go to Education Week's Web site at, and click on "Technology Counts 2001."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin