Closing the Homework Gap
If you can't get online, you probably can't do your homework. Yet a lack of devices at home and a lack of access to high-speed internet make it hard for some students to keep up with basic school requirements.
One problem is that too many parts of our country have still not been wired for broadband. In an op-ed in the Nashville Tennessean, I noted that one-third of the high school students who took the ACT college entrance exam, and who live in rural areas, lack access to broadband at a minimum speed that would allow for high-quality voice, data, graphics and video. They also are more likely to say that their internet access at home is unpredictable compared to those in non-rural areas (16 percent vs. 9 percent).
Access to devices is also a huge problem. One of the students I mentored last year was trying to complete all her homework assignments - including writing papers - on a smart phone. She's not alone. The ACT survey found that roughly 14 percent of students have access to just one device during their out of school hours. Unsurprisingly, most of them were from low-income or rural backgrounds. The chart shows that those students are less likely to be able to write an essay, email a teacher, or finish their homework.
There are ways schools and governments can help. Providing students with one-to-one devices such as tablets or laptops can help. But those devices won't work if there's no way to get on the Internet.
In the 1940s, this country undertook a massive project to make sure every home was connected to the electric grid. The grid today is broadband . . . and we need to ensure that all students have access.