Distance learning may be especially distant for students in low-income households, according to a new study examining the depths of the digital divide when students crouch through distance learning during the pandemic.
Poor students are twice as likely to go an entire week without contact to teachers, researchers at Georgetown University said Thursday, pointing to a yawning gap in Internet access.
In the fall, 21% of households earning less than $ 25,000 said their children had not had any contact with their teachers in the past seven days. This is not a personal contact, video or phone contact. A little more than half of these households (51%) stated that their children had been in contact with a teacher for at least four days in the previous week.
In contrast, 11% of households earning more than $ 200,000 said their children had not had any contact with their teachers in the past seven days. Two-thirds said their children had been in contact with teachers for at least four days in the past week.
Researchers at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce track this lack of contact with less access to a computer always ready for educational purposes, and most importantly, a lack of internet access.
In early December, more schools made computers available to students than in May, from 39% to 65%.
But far fewer schools offered Internet access: 2% of households in May stated that they received Internet access from their child’s school or school district. 4% did so in early December.
That doesn’t matter much to moving the needle as internet access is less available further down the income ladder. Just over half of households (55%) earning less than $ 25,000 had internet access. The data showed that it was 90% for households making $ 200,000 and above.
Other studies suggest that children in wealthier households are more likely to get real time with teachers as well. At the beginning of the school year a survey by JAMA Pediatrics found that 38% of parents making less than $ 50,000 wanted to keep their children at home, and 27% of parents making at least $ 150,000 tended to do the same.
Unsurprisingly, families who are trying to find what they can afford are dwindling internet access. An average monthly internet bill is noisy Move.org.
But the gap in teacher contact is another strong memory that potential learning losses do not affect students equally.
“The long-term effects of switching from face-to-face to virtual learning for K-12 students are largely unknown,” the researchers say wrote. “It is clear, however, that gaps in access to the technologies required for virtual learning exacerbate the challenges already faced by students in lower-income households. The impact of these loopholes will be widespread after COVID-19 and may affect current K-12 students for many years. “