Across the country district and school leaders and staff, teachers, families and students are suffering the sudden change to staying at home. One of the very painful realities is that this pandemic is limiting learning for students from less affluent families more, widening the already unacceptable equity gap. Families with less income are more likely not to have Internet connections, or to have weak connections. The student may have no computer or tablet for their study, or they may have a device that cannot handle the challenges of web conferencing, advanced software, or rich media. In some families many children share one device and cannot complete their work or meet at the times teachers give lessons online. Parents in those families are less likely to be able to guide the students with the technology or the academics. Meanwhile, IB, AP, Honors, and self-motivated students with Internet and devices may actually speed ahead of the rate of learning they would have achieved in the school building. We have much to do to address these challenges.
In Hawai‘i, the only district that covers the whole state, it is difficult to measure given the district’s effort to leave decisions and implementation to the schools and complex areas. Parents for Public Schools of Hawai‘i surveyed parents and received a wide variety of responses on accessible Internet and devices, and in the ways in which technology is being used to support students and families during this shelter-in-home time. Honolulu Civil Beat reported on the difficulty getting data on the district’s pandemic response comparing it to efforts in Miami, Los Angeles and other cities.
As Miami’s school buildings closed, the district rushed to provide 90,000 more devices and around 11,000 Wi-Fi hotspots. 91% of Miami Dade students have logged in for virtual lessons.
“We are bracing ourselves for an unprecedented, historic academic regression experienced by our most fragile population of students.” — Alberto Carvahlo, Superintendent, Miami Dade Schools
The Los Angeles, CA Unified School District is spending $95 million to deliver hot spots and laptops to students to address the digital divide. The impact of technology and training needs on the budget is staggering. Overall effect on the LAUSD budget is pictured below. Click here to get to the EdSource article providing that chart and information on other districts facing these challenges.