Why the Digital Divide Matters
During the pandemic, low-income families and families of color predominately chose to continue remote learning even when students were allowed to return to the classroom. These demographics are less likely to have access to adequate technology, especially if they live in a less wealthy or rural district. ( 2 ) Though some of these students may opt for in-person learning in the 2021-2022 school year, some schools still plan to offer virtual learning options, making the issue of equity even more critical.
A Michigan State University report shows that students who lack access to devices and internet access have GPAs that are 0.4 points lower than their peers with reliable access. ( 3 ) They are also projected to experience more severe learning loss and are more likely to drop out of school.
Learning loss has been a point of contention since schools went virtual in March 2020. Some surveys show that a majority of educators estimate their students have fallen behind by three or more months in their academic and social-emotional progress. ( 4 ) Still, other experts argue that remote learning has actually been better than in-person learning for some students, particularly minority students who were underserved in a traditional classroom setting. ( 5 ) This underscores the importance of connectivity, no matter the learning environment.