Common Sense Survey: Lower-income School May Mean Less Digital Homework


Common Sense Survey: Lower-income School May Mean Less Digital Homework

Sep 27, 2019

WIFI WOES: A new report released by Common Sense may give pause to companies that promote their digital products as a means to increase achievement for students in schools serving lower-income areas. Especially if those products are designed to be used by kids at both school and home.

The report, “The Homework Gap: Teacher Perspectives on Closing the Digital Divide,” found that students in lower-income area schools are less likely to be assigned homework requiring digital tools, possibly because of a lack of high-speed broadband or devices in students’ homes. The Common Sense report is based on a survey of a nationally representative sample of more than 1,200 K-12 teachers.

Among the results:

  • The overall likelihood of homework being assigned that requires access to digital devices and/or broadband internet increases as the grade range does, from 20 percent in grades K-2 to 41 percent in grades 9-12.
  • But 42 percent of teachers in lower-income Title I status schools say they “never” assign homework that requires digital access outside of school, compared to 31 percent of teachers in non-Title I schools who “never” assign it.
  • Generally, 29 percent of teachers say students’ home access to broadband and computing devices limits classroom learning either “quite a bit” or “a great deal.”

While much has been written about digital divides and homework gaps, there’s also been underlying hope that internet access via near-ubiquitous smartphones would help overcome those challenges. The Common Sense survey implies that’s not enough.

There is a caveat to Common Sense’s results. Though the report was issued this month, the teacher survey itself was conducted in May 2018, nearly a year and a half ago. It’s unlikely there have been significant increases in broadband access or decreases in Title I school status since then, but the time lag may be a factor in the underlying methodology.

Common Sense considers the new report a companion to its look earlier this year at technology use by teachers, “The Common Sense Census: Inside the 21st-Century Classroom.” Both reports are based on May 2018 surveys.


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