In a recent edWebinar co-hosted by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) and edWeb.net, administrators from Illinois' Oak Park Elementary School District 97 shared strategies for bridging the homework gap, which impacts many low-income students who lack access to home internet or devices to complete digital homework assignments, eSchool News.
To help close the gap, districts should create a common vision that addresses equitable access through the use of technology and resources like library cards, in addition to reaching out to the community for solutions on how to break down barriers to home WiFi access.
Administrators can also use other districts as examples of best practices to ensure connectivity and provide ongoing training for both students and teachers to be sure connectivity continues.
Though most students are expected to do online homework as 1:1 device programs become more prevalent in schools, nearly 18% of U.S. students don’t have home internet access, and 17% lack access to home computers. The impact on students is drastic. Those without computers or WiFi routinely score below their peers on math, reading and science tests. To help ease this burden, schools are scrambling to come up with creative solutions, such as dinner programs, that allow students to remain in the building after hours.
In some areas, local businesses are pitching in by allowing students to use their spaces and free WiFi. In Madison County, Iowa, coffee shops, libraries and pizzerias identify themselves as student-friendly WiFi spots by displaying a decal on their windows.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who is often credited with coining the term "homework gap," has touted the federal E-rate program as an opportunity to create equalization. In a 2015 interview with Education Dive, Rosenworcel pointed out that 70% of teachers assign online homework, but that one-third of households lack access to the internet. In many of those homes, students use smart phones to do their homework — including writing papers — which is less than ideal.