A new Wisconsin Policy Forum report looks at Wisconsin’s digital divide and the impact on learning. This is particularly important and relevant during the current school closure as districts attempt to provide virtual instruction to students.
From the report summary:
“As the COVID-19 pandemic spurs Wisconsin schools to undertake an unprecedented exercise in virtual and distance learning, districts throughout the state are grappling with how to provide devices and internet access to students without them. Data show these children are in both cities and rural areas, and are disproportionately low-income and students of color.
“The COVID-19 crisis threatens to exacerbate the “digital divide” between students who have fast, reliable at-home internet access and those who do not. This divide has long been significant, but recent events underscore its importance – it now can determine which students have a seat in their new virtual classroom and which are left to fend for themselves.
“According to 2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 370,000 Wisconsinites – 6.6% of the state population – did not have an internet subscription in their homes. This included more than 82,000 Wisconsinites under the age of 18. These students without reliable internet access risk falling behind in classes that have moved online, potentially widening existing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps.
“While most Wisconsin households have reliable access, home access for all students is far from assured. About one-third of all school districts report that at least a quarter of their students do not “have enough internet access at home to complete homework assignments and other school related activities,” according to survey data from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI).”
The Wisconsin Policy Forum is a statewide nonpartisan, independent policy research organization that provides informed analysis of critical policy issues affecting local governments, school districts, and the state of Wisconsin. It came into being as the result of a merger of the former Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance and the Public Policy Forum.