A long-overdue report from the U.S. Department of Education on students’ access to digital learning outside of school is now public.
The document paints a portrait of widespread student access to computers and internet at home—but significant gaps by income, race, family education levels, and geography.
The report is titled Student Access to Digital Learning Resources Outside the Classroom. It was mandated by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.
Originally due last June, the document (and its delayed publication) became a flashpoint for education-advocacy and school-technology groups. They argued the findings were urgently needed to inform ongoing policy debates over the fate of federal programs intended to increase home broadband access and close the “homework gap” afflicting students without reliable internet service outside of school.
Conducted by a team at the American Institutes for Research and overseen by the National Center for Education Statistics, the report relies on existing data (from sources such as NCES and the U.S. Census Bureau) and existing research (culled primarily from peer-reviewed studies published between 2005 and 2016.)
Here are 10 big figures to know:
As of 2015, 94 percent of U.S. children between the ages of 3-18 had a computer at home. That figure was up from 85 percent in 2010. It was also higher for older children and kids whose parents have more education or a higher income.
The percentage of children with home access to a handheld computer or smartphone rose from 25 percent in 2010 to 89 percent in 2015.
As of 2015, 61 percent of children had internet access at home. That figure was up from 58 percent five years prior.
Home internet access was more prevalent for white (66 percent) and Asian (63 percent) children than for black (53 percent), Hispanic (52 percent) and American Indian/Alaska Native children (49 percent.)
The percentage of U.S. children with home internet access who have high-speed service installed in their homes actually declined, from 89 percent in 2010 to 78 percent in 2015.
On the flip side, the percentage of children with home internet access who rely on a mobile service or data plan rose dramatically, from 9 percent in 2010 to 67 percent in 2015.
Mississippi lags the nation in the percentage of households with home computer access (79 percent) and the percentage of households with home internet access (62 percent.)
By contrast, Utah (93 percent) has the highest percentage of households with home computer access, and New Hampshire and Washington (85 percent) the highest percentage with home internet access.
Eighteen percent of children ages 5-17 in remote rural areas either had no home internet access or dial-up connections only.
- In 2015, 80 percent of 8thgraders reported using a computer for school work on a weekday. (Correspondingly, that means 1 in 5 U.S. 8thgraders don’t typically use a computer for schoolwork during the school week.)
Beyond home computer and internet access, the researchers were also charged with exploring the barriers students that prevent access, the challenges those barriers cause students, and their impact on educators and schools.
In general, though, they found limited data and research to date on those questions, especially the impact of home-technology access on schools.
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.