In many rural areas around the state, connectivity to high-speed broadband remains a problem. No one feels that more than students who do not have internet access at home; they are sometimes forced to travel to restaurants, public libraries and other locations that offer free Wi-Fi so that they can do their homework. This is known as the homework gap.
The homework gap occurs when students are assigned homework requiring access to the internet but don’t have home access.
Across the United States, 7 in 10 teachers assign homework that requires internet access, but an estimated 5 million households with school-age children do not have internet access at home. As a result, students without internet access tend to lag behind in education and are less competitive in the workforce.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel coined the term “homework gap.” She describes it “as the “cruelest part of the digital divide,” and the homework gap in diminished educational outcomes and future career and economic opportunities for the children who suffer from the gap.
Causes for the homework gap mirror those that prevent households from adopting broadband in their homes. Research shows that the four major obstacles to broadband adoption are a lack of digital literacy knowledge, the inability to afford the purchase of internet service and digital devices, a lack of access to broadband service and the lack of understanding how the internet is relevant to a person’s life.
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 82.5% of K-12 households nationwide have adopted broadband. is 9% higher than the average of all households. Further, according to the Pew Research Center, “low-income homes with children are four times more likely to be without broadband than their middle or upper-income counterparts.”
Although national data helps to understand the necessity of out-of-school internet access among school-age children, state and local data on the number of households affected by the homework gap does not currently exist. This data is critical when advising policymakers on the best course of action.
To gather the data necessary for strategic policy and program development, the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office and the William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at North Carolina State University partnered to survey parents and caregivers on the homework gap challenges that affect North Carolina students. Data from the survey will help policymakers and education stakeholders design effective solutions that ensure all students in North Carolina can access digital-age learning.
Over the coming weeks, we will publish sections of the Homework Gap Report and announce the release of the report. Stay tuned for more important information and our recommendations for closing the gap.