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Sheer Access to Tech a Big Part of Learning Loss

A big part of the "learning loss" being identified for K-12 students is due to family income. They can't afford the technology required for continuous access to classes, teachers and study resources. A recent analysis found that while more than nine in 10 students (92 percent) in families with household incomes of $200,000 or more always had a computer available for schooling, it was true for only six in 10 students (61 percent) in families with incomes of less than $25,000. For daily internet access, the gap was bigger. While 90 percent of students with household incomes of $200,000 or higher always had internet available for schooling, just 55 percent of students in those low-income households did.

Lower-income K–12 students also had less frequent live contact with their teachers. In the fall, 21 percent of households with incomes under $25,000 reported that their children had experienced no live contact--whether in person or by phone or video--with their teachers in the previous seven days, compared to 11 percent of students in households with incomes over $200,000.

Sheer Access to Tech a Big Part of Learning Loss

According to a recent analysis, lower-income students have less live contactwith teachers than higher-income students. Source: "Virtual Learning Is Not Child's Play for K–12 Students" from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW)

The research was done at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) and reported in "Virtual Learning Is Not Child's Play for K–12 Students."

The study also found that more households with K–12 students reported having access to computers for educational purposes, with an increase from 70 percent of households reporting always having access in the spring (between April 23 and May 5) to 78 percent of households reporting the same in the fall (between November 24 and December 7). At the same time, however, internet access improved only slightly, with 74 percent of households reporting always having internet access in the spring, compared to 75 percent in the fall.

Also, many more households were able to get a computer from their students' school or district than internet access. While 39 percent of families had received school-supplied computers in the spring, that had grown to 65 percent by the fall. Yet, while just two percent of families had school-paid internet in the spring, that had risen to just four percent during the fall.

Co-authors CEW Director Anthony Carnevale and Megan Fasules, CEW assistant research professor and research economist, suggested that the gaps in access to the technologies necessary for online learning were "exacerbating the challenges already faced by students in lower-income households." They said they expected the impacts of the gaps to be "felt widely in the wake of COVID-19," affecting current K-12 students "for many years."

The full analysis is openly available in an article published on Medium.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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