- CoSN CEO Keith Krueger tells District Administration that, despite being concerned about digital equity, 70% of superintendents report that they aren't doing anything about it — but a free Digital Equity Action Toolkit from his organization aims to provide examples for how they can.
- Tech's growing flexibility is making equity easier, and superintendents can start to close gaps by noting students' access to devices, where they have that access, and the internet connectivity in those locations. Then they can use that data to create maps of where free Wi-Fi is available and recruit local businesses to set up free hotspots.
- Additionally, districts can seek special broadband offerings from internet providers and the FCC's E-Rate funding, utilize virtual desktops, and participate in programs like T-Mobile's EmpowerEd, which provides mobile hotspots to low-income families in schools with high free- or reduced-lunch populations.
Ensuring digital equity stretches beyond the school's walls, a detail that can make it a particularly difficult challenge to tackle. FCC data has shown that 70% of teachers assign homework requiring internet use, and when cross-referenced against Pew data showing that five million U.S. families with school-age children have no home broadband access, the scope of the problem comes into clearer focus.
Closing this "homework gap," however, is not impossible: It just requires a bit more work from top administrators than before if schools are to take advantage of today's most innovative learning models and curricular resources.
While the FCC's E-Rate program doesn't necessarily cover efforts beyond the school's walls — and while the homework gap is a concern for commissioners like Jessica Rosenworcel — it is still a viable option for ensuring things within the school building are up to par. The good news for administrators is that, as CoSN makes clear, corporations and local businesses are increasingly partnering with districts or offering services like free community Wi-Fi hotspots to help with the situation. It's up to the superintendent's office not only to make the additional hustle for these opportunities, but to also ensure state and federal lawmakers are aware of these needs and concerns.