As parents you know the routine. Your kids tell you they need to use the computer to do their homework. They need to find a picture of a notable person online, Google a current event they’re studying in class to write a report—or create a PowerPoint presentation (with images and hyperlinks) instead of a paper poster.
And God forbid if the internet goes down, because completing the assignment will seem impossible.
Several studies have found that more than 75% of teachers assign homework that requires the internet, according to TheJournal.com.
However, using the internet at home for many families is a luxury they cannot afford. And as digital learning becomes the norm in most classrooms, the disparity of access to technology is becoming a barrier to success for all children across the country. This new achievement gap is called the Homework Gap.
The Obama administration launched the ConnectED Initiative in 2013 with the goal to bring high-speed internet to all schools so U.S. students are better able to compete with their peers worldwide.
However, the concern among educators is that millions of students are falling behind their peers not because of their access to internet inside the classroom, but because of their lack of access to reliable internet service at home.
The Pew Research Center recently examined American households with school-aged children and discovered that nearly 5 million households with school-aged children do not have high-speed internet service at home. And Hispanic and Black households make up a disproportionate number—nearly one-third—of that 5 million.
When income is factored in, the number of households with school-aged children going without reliable internet gets dramatically worse—rising roughly 10% in each race group for households that make less than $50,000 a year.
Rural students and low-income students are already facing a harder climb to success with unique sets of challenges like riding hours on a school bus before getting to school or dealing with the stress of poverty.
Combining these challenges with unreliable access to the internet to complete their assignments puts these students at a further disadvantage to success. And parents are limited in their access to school information and communication with teachers.
Connecting Families for Student Success
To help our students overcome the Homework Gap, National PTA joined Univision Communications and Common Sense Media to launch ¡Avanzamos Connectados! (Connected, We Advance!)—a campaign to provide Hispanic families with information on how to get affordable internet access and guidelines for monitoring their children’s internet usage in the home.
“Kids begin their day learning in the classroom, but their education continues at home, which is why it is so important for every family to have broadband access,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media in a statement about the campaign.
What You Can Do
If you don’t have regular internet access or a computer at home, you can still help your student succeed and get all his/her homework done. Here are some tips:
- Talk to your child’s teacher about providing alternative assignments that don’t require a computer (e.g., have your child create a poster instead of a PowerPoint presentation).
- Visit the local library with your child so they can use the computers and internet access there— for free!
- Connect with a friend or family member that has access to a computer and set up a time for your child to complete their assignments there.
Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.