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Schools Get $46.5-Million High-Tech Grant

TIMES EDUCATION WRITER

California’s efforts to speed public schools onto the information superhighway will be bolstered next year by $46.5 million in federal money, more than double what the state received this year for educational technology.

The grant from the Technology Literacy Challenge Fund, a $5-billion, five-year program to integrate technology into U.S. classrooms, was announced Wednesday in Washington by Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley.

The money is intended to pay for training teachers; putting computers, software and other technology in classrooms; and wiring schools to the Internet.

Glen Thomas, manager of the state’s Office for Education Technology, said his staff is completing its review of applications for shares of this year’s $20-million federal grant. Priority has gone to high-poverty schools and schools with no Internet connections, low computer-student ratios, and few teachers with technology training, he said.

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State officials had earlier estimated that it would cost $11 billion to equip every California school with computers and train every teacher. Thomas said the necessary allocation would not be as high today, in part because some technology costs are dropping and because of recent funding initiatives, from the federal program to the $1-billion Digital High School project approved by the state Legislature.

Schools will be able to apply for the new federal funds in February. Spending goals have not been determined, but Thomas called teacher training “our weakest area.” According to a recent national survey, only 15% of California elementary and secondary teachers have had at least nine hours of technology training.

Nationally, only 1 in 5 teachers use technology regularly to teach courses, said Linda Roberts, director of educational technology for the U.S. Department of Education. Most states report that training teachers to use computers in the classroom is their greatest need, she said.


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