New study shows where America’s K-12 students are not getting the same access to education
Waukesha, Wisconsin (July 28, 2022) — In July 2022, the Consortium for School Network (CoSN) released the results of its Home Connectivity Study. This study analyzes internet connectivity and speeds among K-12 students in seven school districts across the country.
In it, researchers focused on where students completed their schoolwork, disparities between internet connectivity and speed at school vs. outside of school, disparities among subgroups of students, and suggested actions that could be taken to bridge the Digital Divide and foster equitable education. Moreover, CoSN compared these results to a similar study the previous year that took place while most students were learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Identifying Gaps in Broadband
Five key findings emerged from the study. First, researchers found that students complete most of their schoolwork outside of typical school hours. By gathering information on internet traffic from network filter systems, the authors estimate that 60.69% of school-related internet traffic takes place outside of school. This number is likely higher because it excludes school-related internet traffic that does not go through the school’s filter.
Where students complete their work matters because they experience significantly slower network speeds outside of school than during school hours. While "throughput speeds" outside school hours have increased since the previous year (finding No. 3), speeds outside of school hours remain almost three times slower than speeds during school hours. If students complete most of their work outside of school, these slow speeds can stifle progress.
Finally, certain student populations experience worse network performance and slower speeds than others. The study found that high school students experience slower speeds than other grades (68% met or exceeded performance guidelines vs. 81.9% in grades K-5), some ethnic groups experience slower speeds on average than other ethnic groups (e.g., 66.72% of students of Asian descent met or exceeded performance guidelines vs. 80.22% of white students), and students in socioeconomically disadvantaged groups experience slower speeds than more affluent students (only 1.63% of the former exceeded performance guidelines, whereas 45.52% of the latter exceeded performance guidelines).
Recommendations for Improving Connectivity
To overcome these pitfalls and bridge the Digital Divide, the authors of the study provide some recommendations for school districts. They contend that schools need to focus their attention on addressing insufficient home connectivity for students.
To improve connectivity, the study emphasizes the importance of continued education for families, to ensure that everyone in a household better understands how to access and use the technology. It also points to the need for better infrastructure to establish more reliable connections and faster speeds, and suggests that schools educate parents about the importance of equipment upgrades.
However, some families cannot afford to upgrade to faster internet — as indicated by the study’s finding that disadvantaged socioeconomic groups experience slower speeds outside school hours. The authors recommend that schools should bring awareness to affordable internet options in the area and programs to cover costs, such as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Finally, the study identifies groups of students who experience worse network performance on average, which should allow for concentrated efforts.
CoSN’s endeavors align our work at Connected Nation — through infrastructure upgrades and informational outreach, we can bridge the Digital Divide for K-12 students and improve education outcomes overall. Learn about the ways CN helps improve at-home and in-classroom connectivity at connectednation.org.
"Throughput speeds" - Unlike bandwidth, which measures the amount of data that can possibly travel through a network, throughput measures how much data travels through a network successfully.
About the Author: David Nunnally is a Connected Nation Research Assistant. David is responsible for using qualitative and quantitative techniques to interpret survey data, in addition to collecting data from secondary sources to help support those findings. David works with internal and external stakeholders to help develop research and provide critical information in support of the Connected Nation mission.