Why more kids have computers but still aren’t connected

21% of families earning less than $25,000 reported that their children had no live contact with teachers
By: | February 12, 2021

Because lower-income students have less access to the ed-tech they need for online learning, they also have less live contact with their teachers, a new study has found.

This fall, 21% of families earning less than $25,000 reported that their children had no live contact—whether in person or by phone or video—with teachers in the past week, according to a new analysis from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Only 11% of households with incomes over $200,000 shared the same concern, the study says.

And while students have more devices, they aren’t necessarily connected, the analysis also found.

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“Schools have stepped in to help provide students with computers, but lack of internet access remains a significant barrier to virtual learning for many low-income students,” said Megan Fasules, analysis author and an assistant research professor and research economist.

As of fall 2020, schools were providing computers to 65% of students’ households, compared to 39% in the spring. However, schools were only providing internet access to 4% of homes, compared to 2% of in the spring.

Also, just around 60% of the lowest-income households said they had consistent access to devices and the internet. On the other hand, 90% of the highest-income families reported always having access to both, the report says.

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The full impact of these inequities has yet to be fully quantified, though early studies show the “COVID slide” will be greater in math than in reading.

Gaps in access to the technologies will be felt widely in the wake of COVID-19 and may affect current K–12 students for many years, said Anthony P. Carnevale, the center’s director and the report’s lead author.

“The pandemic is a setback for low-income students not just when it comes to their K–12 education, but possibly for their chances of going to college and eventually entering the middle class,” lead author and CEW Director Anthony P. Carnevale said.

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