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 or Google a current event to write a report. And now, your child is required to create a PowerPoint presentation instead of a paper poster.
Several studies have found that over 75% of teachers assign homework that requires the internet. So if the internet goes down, completing homework assignments seem impossible.
However, using the internet at home for many families is a luxury they cannot afford. Digital learning is the norm in most classrooms and the disparity of access to technology is a concerning barrier to success for all children. This is called the Homework Gap.
The concern among educators is that millions of students are falling behind their peers, because of their lack of access to reliable internet service at home.
The Pew Research Center 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. 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. It is 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 it limits parents’ 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!). This campaign provides 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,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media in a statement about the campaign. “That’s why it is so important for every family to have broadband access.”
What You Can Do
If you don’t have regular internet access or a computer, you can still help your student complete their homework assignments. Here are some tips:
- Talk to your child’s teacher about providing alternative assignments that don’t require a computer. For example, 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 who has access to the internet and schedule time for your child to complete their assignments.
Lindsay Kubatzky is the government affairs coordinator at National PTA.