Originally created 03/12/06

Getting a fair share?



Children eagerly raise their hands for the chance to work on the classroom's electronic white board at Bayvale Elementary, a school that has a computer for every three pupils, a computer lab and a technology club.

The same isn't true for all schools in Richmond County. Although 97 percent of the county's classrooms have high-speed Internet access, the system's 7,149 modern, Internet-connected computers aren't evenly dispersed among its 55 schools.

According to information submitted to the Georgia Department of Education by county officials, some schools have more than five times as many pupils to every computer as other schools.

Elementary schools show the greatest disparities. For instance, Bayvale Elementary has a modern computer with Internet access for every 2.3 pupils, but 12.94 pupils must share each computer at National Hills Elementary.

Much of the disparity can be attributed to funding, said Carol Taylor, the director of educational media and technology. Bayvale is in its second year of a state grant that has brought almost $500,000 in training and technology to three Richmond County schools as the system works on narrowing the technology gap and placing five computers in every classroom.

"When you look at that, you can't look at that in isolation," Mrs. Taylor said.

Last year, nine schools had 10 or more pupils to every one computer. That is down to two schools this year.

And the computers are making an impact on academics.

Pupils are "interactive" with their learning, Bayvale Media Specialist Sandra Driscoll said. They are able to complete instructional programs on the computer, and they receive instant feedback after taking an online practice of the Criterion Referenced Competency Tests.

Parents and children are more involved and excited because of what staff members are doing with the computers, Principal Dana Harris said.

"It's totally changed the entire climate of the classroom," she said.

"It opens up doors for kids to see the world."

There's no comparison to what was available to teachers and pupils when she was in school, she said, praising the differences technology has made.

"It's an innovative way of getting the students actively involved," Dr. Harris said.

Many of her pupils wouldn't have such opportunities outside school, she said.

The disparities, though, don't sit well with school board member Ken Echols, whose district includes National Hills Elementary.

"As far as I'm concerned, every school should have enough computers," he said.

"I'm under the impression that everything is being evenly distributed. I know that it can't be exact, but that big of a gap is kind of discouraging," he said.

He said he intends to question why the gap exists.

"We need to make sure that every child in Richmond County is afforded the same types of equipment and supplies," Mr. Echols said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.


To view computer and internet access by school in Richmond County, click on the link below.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/031206/school-computers.shtml