- Numerous schools have boosted their bandwidth with E-rate funding in recent years, but closing high-speed internet access gaps for lower-income and rural students at home presents an additional challenge for districts at a time when CoSN data foresees 50% of educational resources going digital over the next three years, reports Ed Tech: Focus on K-12.
- To work within strained budgets, districts can survey students and parents to determine needs, build partnerships within the community, utilize funding from Title I and other programs that allow spending on or specifically target closing the homework gap, and utilize nonprofit resources.
- Closing the homework gap isn't just important in raising K-12 achievement, as CoSN CEO Keith Krueger also points out that limited home access can impede the college application process for these students as well.
In an increasingly digital educational landscape, students who have reliable broadband internet access at home are going to have a natural advantage over those who don't. According to FCC data, 70% of teachers assign homework that requires the use of the internet — but many families remain "under-connected." In a recent survey from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, 52% of families reported their broadband service was too slow, and as many as 24% said their services were cut off at some point in the previous 12 months when they were unable to pay.
Many of these families also only have access to the internet via a mobile device, further limiting access for students. The concerns of CoSN's Krueger echo those expressed in 2015 by former FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who expounded upon the difficulties limited and mobile-only access presents to students not only in completing papers and other homework assignments, but in applying for college and scholarships, as well.
With the Cooney Center data showing 33% of families with mobile-only access living below the poverty line, and many of these households also likely to include English language learners, closing the gap amid increased digitization indeed goes beyond simply meeting students' needs to meeting their educational rights.