Nationally, seven in ten teachers assign homework that requires internet access, but an estimated 5 million households with  school-age children do not have internet access at home, according to research from the Pew Research Center (Pew Research Center, 2015). From difficulty in completing homework to diminished educational outcomes, the consequences of the Homework Gap are vast and combine to hinder future career and economic opportunities for both the students and their communities.

And yet, until the U.S. Department of Education released a report in April 2018 compiling data from multiple sources to provide a more robust analysis of the impacts a lack of access to broadband at home has on K-12 households, little was known about the size and scope of the Homework Gap beyond rough national estimates. Even with an increase in data available to measure the national Homework Gap, state, county, and municipal-level data on the Homework Gap are non-existent and are not collected by the federal agencies that measure broadband availability and adoption. However, before targeted policies and programs to bridge the Homework Gap can be designed and implemented, its size, scope, and regional distribution must be determined.

This need for granular data, coupled with the desire to address the Homework Gap holistically and systemically led the BIO and The FIRE Group to partner to conduct a pilot research study on the topic. The two organizations designed and piloted a survey to collect information on the Homework Gap, who it affects, and its primary causes for North Carolina households.

Both organizations have a long history of advancing research, policies and programs designed to bridge the digital divide in North Carolina’s public schools and communities. The FIRE Group leads the development and current implementation of the “North Carolina Digital Learning Plan,” which highlights the digital learning needs of the state to include out of school access (The Friday Institute, 2015).

In 2016, the BIO released Connecting North Carolina State Broadband Plan with nearly 80 policy recommendations to ensure all North Carolinians who seek to adopt broadband have access to it by 2021 (DIT, 2016). Given the importance of ensuring the state’s youth are adequately prepared to participate in a 21st century economy, closing the Homework Gap became one of the primary topics the plan addressed. Among the four recommendations focusing specifically on the Homework Gap, the plan recommended conducting statewide research on out-of-school internet access to fully articulate the breadth of Homework Gap challenges for NC students.

More specifically the plan reads:

HG2.1 The state should distribute a survey in the schools for parents to complete and return to obtain more granular data on where the Homework Gap exists. This could be a telephone, internet, or paper survey (or all the above) targeted at parents. The Friday Institute at North Carolina State University is regarded nationally for developing and evaluating these types of surveys.

To this end, the BIO partnered with the FIRE group to 1) develop and administer a pilot Homework Gap survey, and 2) hold a convening of educational technology leaders to brainstorm solutions to eradicate the Homework Gap. This report details these activities.

Over the coming weeks, we will be publishing parts of our Homework Gap Report here on our blog. But if you can’t wait, click the link below to download the full report now.

The Homework Gap in North Carolina

The big picture

Major Findings

Recommendations

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