- As many K-12 schools start either fully or partially online this year, data suggests that 3 groups will have the hardest time adjusting to at-home schooling technology: low-income households, those run by working families, and Black and Hispanic homes.
- Just around half of households with incomes less than $30,000 use broadband internet or have a computer altogther, according to Pew Research Center.
- Black and Hispanic families are also less likely to own a desktop or laptop, per the US Census Bureau.
- Households with working parents, meanwhile, have limited time to help their kids navigate online schooling.
- Are you a parent or student with a story to share about working/schooling remotely? Contact Allana Akhtar or Aaron Holmes at [email protected] or [email protected]
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As schools across the country start the year either fully or partially remote to slow the spread of COVID-19, technological gaps in education could severely hinder learning — especially for kids in low-income households, or students of working parents.
On Tuesday, a website for one of the country's leading online learning platforms failed to load, leaving many users unable to register on the first day of school. The Associated Press reported that other systems, such as Google Drive and Microsoft Teams, experienced technical glitches, and a ransomware attack even forced schools in Connecticut to postpone the start of classes.
Issues with tech could result in students learning less this school year. The non-profit NWEA sampled 5 million students to find that children in grades three to eight made approximately 70% of the reading gains and 50% of the math gains after a majority of schools switched to remote learning in March, compared to in-person learning.
NWEA also noted that low-income students, who are more likely to lack broadband internet access, will be "disproportionately hurt" by the transition to online learning. As of 2019, just 56% of US adults that earned below $30,000 used home broadband, per Pew Research Center, and 46% of these households had a computer at all.
As a result, 56% of parents said they had to buy additional tech resources for remote schooling, an August survey of 2,200 working parents found.
In addition to spending more money on technology tools, spending time dealing with tech glitches or providing extra help teaching are luxuries that many working parents don't have. After the switch to online schooling this spring, many working parents — particularly mothers — said they struggled balancing at-home learning with working full-time. Part of the the problem stems from many childcare centers closing during the pandemic, and without a bailout, 40% of childcare providers expect to close permanently, the National Association for the Education of Young Children found.
As a result, economists worry working women could leave their jobs altogether, further straining household finances. Investment bank Jefferies found that as many as half of working parents said they wouldn't return to work if schools didn't open this year.
Finally, like other aspects of the pandemic, this is hurting Black and Hispanic families the most.
In 2016, the US Census Bureau reported that Black households were the least likely to own a desktop computer or have broadband internet access than all other demographics. Also, the National Skills Coalition advocacy group found that older Black and Latino workers have the lowest level of basic digital skills to help their kids navigate online schooling.
"All those barriers that hold people of color back generally, like low-wage jobs or limited formal education, all get magnified when it comes to technology," said Amanda Bergson-Shilcock, a senior fellow at the National Skills Coalition. "You also don't probably have a home computer from work, your high school won't have computer lab access."