I am fortunate to be able to stock my kids' backpacks with notebooks, pencils and highlighters. There are many families that can't provide these essential supplies to their children. In our community, great organizations like Crayons2Calculators help students who can't afford supplies, but what about the new essential homework tool - the Internet.
More than half of the poorest Americans don't have Internet at home (Broadband report). Here in the Triangle, that means about 1 in 4 students don't have Internet (Herald-Sun article).
Can you imagine doing research for a paper without the Internet? How would you check the homework assignment your teacher posted? So many routine tasks are now Web based. My daughter used a computer and Internet nearly every night for homework last year - Quia quizzes for physics, submitting papers online for English, practicing French on Quizlet, etc. Seven in ten teachers assign homework that requires some Internet usage. This mismatch of need and access is being called the homework gap (FCC Commisioner article).
I am working on an initiative in Durham Public Schools aimed at reducing the homework gap called Project Z. We are identifying students who lack Internet and/or a computing device and providing access. It is just a small pilot in one school now, but we are hopeful it can expand to help address the estimated 8,000 DPS students without access to Internet. In 2015-16 we will be partnering with the Durham Housing Authority and EveryoneOn to connect students in public housing to high speed Internet via Google Fiber. We are also partnering with Verizon to provide Chromebooks with embedded Internet hot spots to 45 middle school students.
We must address the homework gap or risk allowing 25% of our students to fall behind!