Getting to know computers, sort of, in America's schools

By , Staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor

Students in the United States like using computers, but generally they don't know much about how to use them, according to a report just published by the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The study surveyed 24,000 students in 3rd, 7th, 11th grades. Students were tested for their knowledge of computer technology, applications, and programming. All three groups scored less than 50 percent correct on test questions. Among the report's other findings:

Many teachers do not feel adequately prepared to teach computer science. This problem is most significant in younger grades.

While 60 percent of the 11th-graders showed familiarity with word processing, students were not generally familiar with the use of graphics and data bases.

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Roughly 30 percent of the students reported having computers at home, and more than half of those said most of their computer learning had taken place there.

Although males demonstrated a slightly higher level of competence, two-thirds of third-grade students believed boys and girls have the same ability to use computers.

Current use of computers in schools is ``largely confined to classes about computing and the use of equipment.'' The report notes that ``this compartmentalization restricts students from using the computer as a general-purpose learning tool'' in many subject areas.

``Computer Competence, The First National Assessment.'' National Assessment of Educational Progress. Princeton, N.J. April 1988.

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