Future of Learning

Wanted: More solutions for solving the homework gap

When children can’t get online at home it’s harder for them to take advantage of digital learning resources

The Hechinger Report is a national nonprofit newsroom that reports on one topic: education. Sign up for our weekly newsletters to get stories like this delivered directly to your inbox.
So far, two buses in the Coachella Valley Unified School District have Wi-Fi technology. The district is still working on how to best use the technology on buses. (Credit: Nichole Dobo, The Hechinger Report)

So far, two buses in the Coachella Valley Unified School District have Wi-Fi technology. The district is still working on how to best use the technology on buses. (Credit: Nichole Dobo, The Hechinger Report)

There just a few hundred students at the public schools in Saint Paul, Arkansas, a speck of a town nestled north of a national forest.

Many of these children don’t have an Internet connection at home, the principal of Saint Paul schools, Daisy Dyer Duerr, said. An after-school program established here three years ago here provides an Internet connection, enrichment lessons and transportation home. Children who sign up stay for three hours after school, she said.

“It’s not as good as having it at home, but it’s a great compromise,” Duerr said during a phone conversation last week.

It’s not a perfect solution. Among the challenges: long bus rides home. Some children who stay after school don’t get home until 7 p.m. And these same children must climb aboard the school bus the next day around 6 a.m., Duerr said.

As I wrote in a story last week for The Hechinger Report, a new Federal Communications Commission program is designed to connect more low-income households to the Internet by subsidizing their bills. In Saint Paul, most students come from families with incomes low enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Will they get help with the “homework gap” through that new program? Maybe. But help paying an Internet bill isn’t much help if the service is unavailable or lacking.

And that’s exactly the problem in Saint Paul, Arkansas.

“The service is so sketchy,” Duerr said. “If you do get service, it’s not very good.”

In many remote areas, obtaining a speedy internet connection – or even just a cell phone signal – isn’t just a matter of earning enough money to pay the bill. Broadband simply isn’t available in some places because no one built it there. In many of these areas, the only options are dial-up or satellite access, which tend to be expensive and slow.

Lack of a home Internet connection is a problem that yawns wider than rural communities. It’s an issue for children in cities and suburbs, too. If they don’t have an Internet connection – or a computer – at home, they can’t curl up on the couch at home to study, take an online class or do their homework. (A project in Brooklyn empowers students to set up Internet connections for their community.)

Many people agree that digital learning holds a lot of promise. Online programs now offer free access to AP courses, SAT preparation and other educational resources that help K-12 students prepare for college and careers. But it’s not all that promising if people who are already at a disadvantage get left behind.

For more news about blended learning, delivered to your inbox every Tuesday, sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Subscribe to our mailing list



This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Read more about blended learning.

 

The Hechinger Report provides in-depth, fact-based, unbiased reporting on education that is free to all readers. But that doesn't mean it's free to produce. Our work keeps educators and the public informed about pressing issues at schools and on campuses throughout the country. We tell the whole story, even when the details are inconvenient. Help us keep doing that.

Join us today.

Letters

Nichole Dobo

Nichole Dobo is the senior editor for audience engagement and a writer. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic's online… See Archive

Letters to the Editor

Send us your thoughts

At The Hechinger Report, we publish thoughtful letters from readers that contribute to the ongoing discussion about the education topics we cover. Please read our guidelines for more information.

By submitting your name, you grant us permission to publish it with your letter. We will never publish your email. You must fill out all fields to submit a letter.





No letters have been published at this time.