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The homework gap

Wednesday 24 February 2016, by SIGNIS

NYC, Brussels, February 24th, 2016 (SIGNIS). Nowadays, more and more educators are pushing for students to use resources on the internet for class work. However, there are many households where there is no internet connection. Cecilia Kang, from the New York Times wrote an interesting article about this “homework gap”.

A research showed that seven in ten teachers now assign homework that requires web access. Yet one-third of kindergartners through 12th graders in the United States are unable to go online from home. The Obama administration announced in July its own program to help address the problem, deploying free and affordable broadband into public housing.

The divide is driving action at the federal level. Members of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are expected to vote next month on repurposing a roughly $2 billion-a-year phone subsidy program, known as Lifeline, to include subsidies for broadband services in low-income homes.

The Lifeline plan has drawn strong criticism from the two Republicans among the five F.C.C. commissioners, and from some lawmakers, who say the program, which was introduced in 1985 to bring phone services to low-income families, has been wasteful and was abused. But advocacy groups for children and minorities have backed the F.C.C. plan, saying it will be important in preventing students from falling further behind their peers.

Some schools districts try to find solutions to this inequality: some schools leave their Wi-Fi connection open for children to do their homework outside the school, some school busses have free Wi-Fi, and are parked in residential neighborhoods overnight so that children can connect and continue studying. In cities like Detroit, Miami and New Orleans, where as many as one-third of homes do not have broadband, children crowd libraries and fast-food restaurants to use free hot spots

Most of the teachers are understanding, but not all of them are. Cecilia Kang met Yunuen Reyes, 17, a high school senior in Pharr (Texas), who does not have internet at home and typically has three hours of homework a day that require research and collaboration with classmates online. Some assignments and take-home exams are due by midnight and must be submitted over the web.

So after her job, Yunuen scrambles to find Wi-Fi at a nearby restaurant. Often, she goes to the home of a friend who lets her use the family computer and Internet connection. Recently, she got a C on an English assignment that she had not completed before the deadline to submit it online.

“It’s stressful and embarrassing to keep asking my friend,” Yunuen said. “I don’t want to keep bothering her. But I also don’t want my teachers to think I’m making excuses.”

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