NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

Students’ Internet Access Before and During the Coronavirus Pandemic by Household Socioeconomic Status

The pandemic has focused attention on the resources needed for students to engage equitably in educational opportunities, particularly during remote learning. While access to computers and the internet were important to education prior to the pandemic—as tools for word processing, research, and communication after school hours, or even as the primary means of schooling—they became essential tools for students to remain engaged during the 2020–21 academic year. Reflecting this importance both before and during the pandemic, recent NCES blogs have highlighted data on virtual schools and geographic differences in digital access. This blog presents additional insight on these topics from the Condition of Education 2021. Specifically, it highlights patterns of inequity in access to educational technology by socioeconomic status, both before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the Coronavirus Pandemic

According to the American Community Survey (ACS),1 the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. For instance, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those whose parents had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree (99 percent) and lowest for those whose parents had less than a high school credential (83 percent) (figure 1).

Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. Specifically, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those in families in the highest income quarter (99 percent) and lowest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (89 percent) (figure 1).2


Figure 1. Percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and home internet access only through a smartphone, by parental education and family income quarter: 2019

1 Includes those who completed high school through equivalency credentials, such as the GED.
NOTE: Includes only 3- to 18-year-olds living in households (respondents living in group quarters such as shelters, healthcare facilities, or correctional facilities were not asked about internet access). Includes 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 702.12.


While internet access is nearly universal in the United States (95 percent of all 3- to 18-year-olds had access in 2019), not all families access the internet the same way. Specifically, 88 percent had access through a computer,3 and 6 percent relied on a smartphone for their home internet access.4,5

In 2019, the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. For instance, the percentage who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access was lowest for those in families in the highest income quarter (1 percent) and highest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (14 percent) (figure 1).

Taken together with the patterns for overall home internet access, these findings reveal that access only through a smartphone is generally more common for groups with lower rates of internet access overall. Importantly, although smartphones can be useful tools for staying connected, they offer more limited functionality for applications such as word processing or interactive learning platforms. In other words, overall levels of internet access mask further inequities in mode of access, which have implications for whether/how the internet can be used as an educational tool.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As students moved en masse to online learning during the pandemic, access to internet-connected devices became a requirement for students to participate effectively in their new learning environments. The pre-pandemic data described above suggest that not all students would have been in a position to take advantage of these remote classrooms, and that this would be true of a higher percentage of students whose parents had lower incomes or lower levels of educational attainment.  

Some schools and districts helped students meet these needs by providing computers or paying for home internet access. Data from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) show that 59 percent of adults6 with children in the home enrolled in school7 reported that computers were provided by their school or district. This percentage was generally higher for those with lower 2019 household incomes, ranging from 68 percent for adults with household incomes below $25,000 to 50 percent for adults with household incomes over $150,000 (figure 2). A similar pattern was observed for internet access. Overall, 4 percent of adults said internet access was paid for by their students’ district or school, ranging from 8 percent for adults in the lowest household income range to about 1 percent for those in the highest household income range. These patterns are consistent with higher rates of assistance going to families with higher rates of expected need (as indicated in figure 1).


Figure 2. Among adults 18 years old and over who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school, percentage reporting that computers and internet access were always or usually available and provided or paid for by schools or school districts, by income level: September 2 to 14, 2020

NOTE: Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Data in this figure are considered experimental and do not meet NCES standards for response rates. The survey question refers to enrollment at any time during the 2020–21 school year.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Household Pulse Survey, collection period of September 2 to 14, 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables 218.85 and 218.90.


Even with this assistance from schools and districts, however, socioeconomic inequalities in students’ access to computers and internet were not eliminated. In general, the percentage of adults who reported that these resources were always or usually available increased with household income. For example, in September 2020, the percentage of adults reporting that computers were always or usually available was highest for the two household income levels at or above $100,000 and lowest for the two household income levels below $50,000. Similarly, the percentage of adults reporting that internet access was always or usually available was higher for the three household income levels at or above $75,000 than for the three household income levels below $75,000.

Both before and during the pandemic, these data show that overall access to education technology in the United States is high. This access is bolstered by widespread access to mobile devices like smartphones and—at least during the 2020–21 academic year—by resources provided by students’ schools and districts, particularly for students from lower socioecnomic backgrounds. Nevertheless, inequalities persist. As the prevalence of technology in education grows, it will be important to continue to track equity not only in access but also in quality of access and frequency and competency of use.

Explore the following resources to learn more about students’ access to, use of, and competency with education technology.

General

Access

  • Condition of Education 2021

Use

Competency

 

By Véronique Irwin, NCES


[1] The American Community Survey (ACS) provides a large monthly sample of demographic, socioeconomic, and housing data comparable in content to the Long Forms of the Decennial Census. Aggregated over time, these data serve as a replacement for the Long Form of the Decennial Census. This section of the blog post uses data from ACS to describe the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and the percentage with home internet access only through a smartphone in 2019.

[2] The highest quarter refers to the top 25 percent of all family incomes; the middle-high quarter refers to the 51st through the 75th percentile of all family incomes; the middle-low quarter refers to the 26th through the 50th percentile of all family incomes; and the lowest quarter refers to the bottom 25 percent of all family incomes.

[3] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access through one or more of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Includes homes having both smartphones and any of these types of computers.

[4] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the types of computers listed in endnote 3.

[5] Detail does not sum to totals because of rounding.

[6] The Household Pulse Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau and other agencies including NCES, gathers information from adults about household educational activities (as well as other topics). Because the data focus on adults, findings from HPS are not directly comparable to those from ACS mentioned above.

[7] According to HPS data, 52 million adults had children under age 18 in the home enrolled in school in September 2020. Overall, two-thirds (67 percent) of these adults reported that classes for their children had moved to a distance learning format using online resources.

Students’ Access to the Internet and Digital Devices at Home

This blog continues a robust discussion about National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data collected in the recent past that can illuminate the issue of students’ access to the internet and digital devices at home. A few years ago—well before the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders shone a bright light on the inequities across the nation—NCES began dedicating resources to improve its data collection and policymaking around education technology and equity at the district, state, and national levels.

The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading questionnaire asked 4th- and 8th-grade students if they had internet access at home and if there was a computer or tablet at home that they could use (referred to in this blog as having “digital access”). These data provide a pre–coronavirus pandemic snapshot of students’ digital access. Across all public schools, 81 percent of 4th-grade students and 88 percent of 8th-grade students said that they had digital access (figures 1 and 2). Thus, 19 percent of 4th-grade students and 12 percent of 8th-grade students in public schools may not have either access to the internet or the devices required to carry out distance learning.  


Figure 1. Percentage of 4th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Figure 2. Percentage of 8th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


There were also differences across states in 2019. For 4th-grade students, the percentages who had digital access varied by state, ranging from 70 percent in New Mexico to 88 percent in New Jersey (table 1). Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming had lower percentages of students who had digital access than the national average (figure 1 and table 1). For 8th-grade students, the percentages who had access ranged from 81 percent in Oklahoma to 93 percent in Connecticut (table 1). Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia had lower percentages of students who had access than the national average (figure 2 and table 1).


Table 1. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and state: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

State

Percent

s.e

 

Percent

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

Alabama

79

(1.2)

 

86

(0.8)

Alaska

 

 

Arizona

78

(0.9)

84

(0.9)

Arkansas

73

(0.9)

83

(1.1)

California

81

(0.9)

 

88

(0.9)

 

Colorado

 

 

Connecticut

85

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

Delaware

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.6)

 

District of Columbia

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

DoDEA

88

(0.7)

96

(0.4)

Florida

85

(0.7)

89

(0.7)

 

Georgia

83

(0.9)

90

(0.7)

Hawaii

79

(1)

 

86

(0.8)

Idaho

77

(0.9)

88

(0.8)

 

Illinois

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

Indiana

80

(0.9)

 

90

(1.1)

 

Iowa

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

 

Kansas

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

Kentucky

81

(0.8)

 

87

(0.7)

Louisiana

79

(1)

 

85

(0.9)

Maine

82

(0.9)

 

89

(0.7)

 

Maryland

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.6)

Massachusetts

87

(0.8)

93

(0.7)

Michigan

80

(1)

 

90

(0.8)

 

Minnesota

83

(1)

92

(0.7)

Mississippi

77

(1.2)

84

(0.7)

Missouri

78

(0.8)

89

(0.8)

 

Montana

 

 

Nebraska

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

Nevada

79

(1)

 

85

(0.7)

New Hampshire

 

 

New Jersey

88

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

New Mexico

70

(1.2)

82

(0.8)

New York

84

(0.7)

91

(0.7)

North Carolina

81

(0.8)

 

89

(0.8)

 

North Dakota

81

(1)

 

90

(0.7)

Ohio

82

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Oklahoma

73

(1.1)

81

(0.9)

Oregon

77

(1)

87

(0.8)

 

Pennsylvania

85

(0.8)

91

(0.7)

Rhode Island

84

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

South Carolina

81

(1)

 

90

(0.9)

 

South Dakota

 

 

Tennessee

77

(0.9)

86

(0.9)

Texas

75

(0.9)

82

(1)

Utah

 

 

Vermont

81

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Virginia

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.8)

Washington

80

(1)

 

89

(0.8)

 

West Virginia

81

(1)

 

86

(0.7)

Wisconsin

83

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Wyoming

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
† Not applicable.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant. “National public” refers to the results for all students in public schools.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Looking at the results of NAEP’s 2019 Trial Urban Districts Assessment (TUDA), Miami-Dade, Florida, had the highest percentages of 4th- and 8th-grade students who had digital access (88 percent and 93 percent, respectively) (table 2). Fresno, California, had the lowest percentage of 4th-grade students (67 percent) who had access and Dallas, Texas, had the lowest percentage of 8th-grade students (73 percent) who had access.


Table 2. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA): 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Large city

Percentage

 

Percentage

 

   All large cities

78

 

85

 

Albuquerque

75

 

85

 

Atlanta

82

86

 

Austin

78

 

83

 

Baltimore City

73

84

 

Boston

81

89

Charlotte

83

91

Chicago

80

 

88

 

Clark County (NV)

78

 

84

 

Cleveland

74

80

Dallas

71

73

Denver

 

 

Detroit

70

79

District of Columbia (DCPS)

83

90

Duval County (FL)

84

89

Fort Worth (TX)

72

88

Fresno

67

77

Guilford County (NC)

78

 

85

 

Hillsborough County (FL)

81

 

87

 

Houston

71

75

Jefferson County (KY)

82

88

Los Angeles

76

 

85

 

Miami-Dade

88

93

Milwaukee

75

 

85

 

New York City

81

 

89

Philadelphia

78

 

86

 

San Diego

81

 

90

Shelby County (TN)

78

 

86

 

Significantly higher than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


In 2019, higher percentages of 8th-grade students than of 4th-grade students had digital access. This pattern was consistent across all states and TUDA jurisdictions. On average, in both 4th and 8th grades, higher percentages of students in suburban areas than of students in cities, towns, and rural areas had access (table 3).


Table 3. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and locale: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Locale

Percentage

s.e

 

Percentage

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

City

79

(0.4)

86

(0.4)

Suburban

84

(0.3)

 

92

(0.3)

 

Town

77

(0.8)

86

(0.6)

Rural

78

(0.4)

87

(0.4)

↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Suburban at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


While the NAEP data reveal state-level patterns in students’ digital access before the pandemic, the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) provides insight into the digital access of students across the country during the pandemic. The HPS is conducted by the Census Bureau and seven other federal statistical agency partners, including NCES. Since April 23, 2020, the HPS has provided weekly or biweekly estimates of the availability of computers and internet access to children for educational purposes.

In April 2020, 88 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that computers were always or usually available for educational purposes. By the end of March 2021, that percentage increased to 94 percent (table 4).

A similar pattern emerged in the HPS data for internet access. In April 2020, 91 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that the internet was always or usually available for educational purposes. In March 2021, that percentage had increased to 94 percent (table 4).


Table 4. Percentage of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school who reported that computers and internet access were always or usually available for educational purposes: 2020–21, selected time periods

 

Computers available

Access to internet

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

April 23 to May 5, 2020

88

(0.5)

 

91

(0.4)

 

March 17 to March 29, 2021

94

(0.4)

94

(0.4)

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for April 23 to May 5, 2020, at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, selected periods, April 2021 through March 2021.


While these data provide a recent look into the technology landscape for students both before and during the pandemic, there is still a need to collect more and better data to understand digital inequities. For example, future NCES surveys could ask schools, students, and teachers about their technology use and access at home, what resources for learning and instruction they have at home, and the environment in which many students and teachers now find themselves learning and teaching.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Cadelle Hemphill, AIR; Yan Wang, AIR: Diana Forster, AIR; Chad Scott, AIR; and Grady Wilburn, NCES

What National and International Assessments Can Tell Us About Technology in Students’ Learning: Technology Instruction, Use, and Resources in U.S. Schools

As schools and school districts plan instruction amid the current coronavirus pandemic, the use of technology and digital resources for student instruction is a key consideration.

In this post, the final in a three-part series, we present results from the NAEP TEL and ICILS educator questionnaires (see the first post for information about the results of the two assessments and the second post for the results of the student questionnaires). The questionnaires ask about the focus of technology instruction in schools, school resources to support technology instruction, and the use of technology in teaching practices.

It is important to note that NAEP TEL surveys the principals of U.S. eighth-grade students, while ICILS surveys a nationally representative sample of U.S. eighth-grade teachers.

Emphasis in technology instruction

According to the 2018 NAEP TEL principal questionnaire results, principals1 of 61 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that prior to or in eighth grade, much of the emphasis in information and communication technologies (ICT) instruction was placed on teaching students how to collaborate with others. In addition, principals of 51 percent of eighth-grade students reported that a lot of emphasis was placed on teaching students how to find information or data to solve a problem. In comparison, principals of only 10 percent of eighth-grade students reported that a lot of emphasis was placed on teaching students how to run simulations (figure 1).



According to the 2018 ICILS teacher questionnaire results, 40 percent of U.S. eighth-grade teachers reported a strong emphasis on the use of ICT instruction to develop students’ capacities to use computer software to construct digital work products (e.g., presentations). In addition, 35 percent of eighth-grade teachers reported a strong emphasis on building students’ capacities to access online information efficiently. In comparison, 17 percent reported a strong emphasis on developing students’ capacities to provide digital feedback on the work of others (figure 2).  



Resources at school

NAEP TEL and ICILS used different approaches to collect information about technology-related school resources. NAEP TEL asked about hindrances that limited schools’ capabilities to provide instruction in technology or engineering concepts. According to NAEP TEL, principals of 5 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students indicated that a lack or inadequacy of internet connectivity was a “moderate” or “large” hindrance in their schools. However, principals of 61 percent of eighth-grade students indicated that a lack of time due to curriculum content demands was a “moderate” or “large” hindrance. Principals of 44 percent of eighth-grade students indicated that a lack of qualified teachers was a “moderate” or “large” hindrance (figure 3).



ICILS asked about the adequacy of school resources to support ICT use in teaching. Eighty-six percent of U.S. teachers “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that technology was considered a priority for use in teaching. Nearly three-quarters of teachers “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that their schools had access to sufficient digital learning resources and had good internet connectivity (74 and 73 percent, respectively) (figure 4).



Use of technology in teaching

Teachers of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they often used technology in their teaching practices. ICILS found that 64 percent of U.S. teachers regularly (i.e., “often” or “always”) used technology to present class instruction. Fifty-four percent of teachers regularly used technology to communicate with parents or guardians about students’ learning. In addition, 45 percent of teachers regularly used technology to provide remedial or enrichment support to individual or small groups of students, and a similar percentage (44 percent) regularly used technology to reinforce skills through repetition of examples (figure 5).



ICILS also reported results from U.S. eighth-grade teachers about how they collaborated on technology use. About three-quarters “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they talked to other teachers about how to use technology in their teaching. Similarly, about three-quarters “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they shared technology resources with other teachers in the school. More than half of the teachers “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they collaborated with colleagues on the development of technology-based lessons.

Overall, the responses of teachers and principals suggested that emphasis had been put on different aspects of instruction for eighth-grade students. The majority of schools had enough digital resources and adequate internet access. However, technologies were also used differently in different teaching practices.

It should be noted that the data presented here were collected in 2018; any changes since then due to the coronavirus pandemic are not reflected in the results reported here. The NAEP TEL and ICILS samples both include public and private schools. The 2018 ICILS also included a principal questionnaire, but the questions are not directly related to the topics included in this blog. Data reported in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest integer.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Yan Wang, AIR, and Taslima Rahman, NCES


[1] The unit of analysis for TEL principal responses is student.

What National and International Assessments Can Tell Us About Technology in Students’ Learning: Eighth-Graders’ Experience with Technology

The use of technology has become an integral part of life at work, at school, and at home throughout the 21st century and, in particular, during the coronavirus pandemic.

In this post, the second in a three-part series, we present results from the NAEP TEL and ICILS student questionnaires about students’ experience and confidence using technology (see the first post for more information about these assessments and their results). These results can help to inform education systems that are implementing remote learning activities this school year.

Uses of information and communication technologies (ICT) for school

Both NAEP TEL and ICILS collected data in 2018 on U.S. eighth-grade students’ uses of ICT in school or for school-related purposes.

According to the NAEP TEL questionnaire results, about one-third of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they used ICT regularly (i.e., at least once a week) to create, edit, or organize digital media (figure 1). About a quarter used ICT regularly to create presentations, and 18 percent used ICT regularly to create spreadsheets.



According to the ICILS questionnaire results, 72 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they regularly used the Internet to do research, and 56 percent regularly used ICT to complete worksheets or exercises (figure 2). Forty percent of eighth-grade students regularly used ICT to organize their time and work. One-third regularly used software or applications to learn skills or a subject, and 30 percent regularly used ICT to work online with other students.



Confidence in using ICT

Both the 2018 NAEP TEL and ICILS questionnaires asked U.S. eighth-grade students about their confidence in their ICT skills. NAEP TEL found that about three-quarters of eighth-grade students reported that they were confident that they could—that is, they reported that they “probably can” or “definitely can”—compare products using the Internet or create presentations with sound, pictures, or video (figure 3). Seventy percent were confident that they could organize information into a chart, graph, or spreadsheet.



ICILS found that 86 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students reported that they knew how to search for and find relevant information for a school project on the Internet (figure 4). Eighty-three percent knew how to both upload text, images, or video to an online profile and install a program or app. About three-quarters of eighth-grade students knew how to change the settings on their devices, and 65 percent knew how to edit digital photographs or other graphic images.



Years of experience using computers

In the 2018 ICILS questionnaire, U.S. eighth-grade students were also asked how many years they had been using desktop or laptop computers. One-third of eighth-grade students reported using computers for 7 years or more—that is, they had been using computers since first grade (figure 5). This finding was similar to results from the Computer Access and Familiarity Study (CAFS), which was conducted as part of the 2015 NAEP. The CAFS found that in 2015, about 35 percent of eighth-grade public school students reported first using a laptop or desktop computer in kindergarten or before kindergarten.

Nineteen percent of eighth-grade students reported that they had used computers for at least 5 but less than 7 years. However, 9 percent of eighth-grade students had never used computers or had used them for less than one year, meaning they had only started using computers when they reached eighth grade.



Overall, responses of eighth-grade students showed that some had more years of experience using computers than others. Although there were differences in students’ use of ICT for school-related purposes, most students felt confident using ICT.

It should be noted that the data presented here were collected in 2018; any changes since then due to the coronavirus pandemic or other factors are not reflected in the results reported here. The NAEP TEL and ICILS samples both include public and private schools. Data reported in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest integer.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Yan Wang, AIR, and Taslima Rahman, NCES

What National and International Assessments Can Tell Us About Technology in Students’ Learning: Eighth-Graders’ Readiness to Use Technology

Across the country in 2020, students, teachers, and parents have had to adapt to changes in the delivery of education instruction due to the coronavirus pandemic and turn to information and communication technologies (ICT) to learn, interact, and assess progress. It is important that we are able to assess students’ abilities to understand and use technology now more than ever. This post, the first in a three-part series, discusses the results of two technology-focused assessments, NAEP TEL and ICILS, which NCES administered in 2018 (see textbox for more information about these assessments).

Students’ performance on NAEP TEL and ICILS

According to the 2018 NAEP TEL, 46 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level, meaning that they were able to demonstrate the selection and use of an appropriate range of tools and media (figure 1). According to the 2018 ICILS, 25 percent of eighth-grade students scored at or above proficiency level 3 for computer and information literacy—that is, they demonstrated the capacity to work independently when using computers as information-gathering and management tools. In addition, 20 percent of eighth-grade students scored in the upper region for computational thinking, meaning that they demonstrated an understanding of computation as a problem-solving framework.


Figure 1. Percentage of eighth-grade students identified as at or above proficient, by assessment: 2018


There are many factors that may affect performance on these assessments, such as access to technology, devices, hardware, and software; access to learning opportunities using technology; amount of experience using technology; and attitudes toward technology.

Student’s participation in technology-related classes

For NAEP TEL, students were asked if they were currently taking a technology-related class or if they had taken one in the past. In 2018, about 57 percent of U.S. eighth-grade students were either currently enrolled in or had taken at least one technology-related class, such as industrial technology, engineering, or a class that involved learning to use, program, or build computers (table 1). In addition, a higher percentage of students who had completed a technology-related class before or during eighth-grade scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level, compared with students who had not completed such a class (table 2).




Overall, both assessments show that a portion of students demonstrated the knowledge and skills necessary to meet the assessment’s defined proficiency measures, although more than half reported taking technology-related classes before or during eighth grade.

It should be noted that the data presented here were collected in 2018; any changes since then due to the coronavirus pandemic or other factors are not reflected in the results reported here. The NAEP TEL and ICILS samples both include public and private schools, but the two assessments use different methods for reporting student performance. Data from these assessments do not support any causal inferences as they are not experimental studies. Data reported in the text and figures are rounded to the nearest integer.

 

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By Mary Ann Fox, AIR, and Taslima Rahman, NCES