Feb 23, 2021 · 5 min read

CoSN to Study At-Home Learning Connectivity Needs, Develop Recommended Bandwidth Guidelines to Close ‘Homework Gap’

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Provided $100,000 Grant to Fund Study

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Washington, D.C – CoSN today announced a study on students’ at-home internet access and connectivity aimed at helping close the digital divide in education. The evidence gathered from the analysis will be used to identify the internet connectivity requirements needed to support student learning and engagement. At the conclusion of the study, CoSN will issue recommended guidelines for student home internet bandwidth requirements, which will consider factors, such as income level and race/ethnicity, that are essential to address equity issues related to home internet connectivity. The study is supported by a $100,000 grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI).

A July 2020 survey of the Homework Gap conducted by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), the National Indian Education Association, the National Urban League and UnidosUS found that nearly 17 million U.S. students don’t have the high-speed internet access needed to fully participate in online learning from home. The lack of broadband access is most acutely experienced by Black, brown and indigenous students.

At least twelve K-12 urban, suburban and rural school districts from across the United States with 563,202 students are participating in the study, securely sharing information on internet usage, latency and performance from network filter logs and video conferencing solutions such as Zoom, Google and Microsoft. Each participating district will receive a detailed data set and dashboard, so that they can take action to provide internet connectivity for underserved students and subgroups. The districts include:

  • Aldine ISD (TX)
  • Beaverton School District (OR)
  • Dallas Independent School District (TX)
  • Ector County ISD (TX)
  • Fauquier County Public Schools (VA)
  • Forest Ridge School District 142 (IL)
  • Hillsborough County Public Schools (FL)
  • MSD of Wayne Township (IN)
  • Rock Hill Schools York 3 (SC)
  • Santa Fe Public Schools (NM)
  • St. Charles CUSD 303 (IL)
  • Wake County Public Schools (NC)

Design procedures are built into the effort to ensure the privacy and confidentiality of data. Only the participating districts will have access to their personally identifiable information (PII). Student records are de-identified prior to performing any statistical analyses. Public data sets and reports are available only at the aggregated level.

“This effort will provide essential recommendations on what bandwidth requirements students need to learn from home. It will be based on actual data showing the real-time experiences of thousands of students around the United States — offering educators and policymakers a realistic look at students’ remote learning experiences for the first time. We are extremely grateful to CZI for making this critical work possible,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN.

CoSN is working in partnership with Innive Inc., a data analytics company, and an advisory group of educators, including participating districts, to determine common connectivity challenges and equity concerns. CoSN will then use these insights to develop a K-12 home connectivity standard and public summary report, offering both school districts and national/state decisionmakers detailed recommendations on how to address gaps in internet coverage. Additionally, a wide-ranging data set from all of the participating districts with metrics on network performance and usage across different types of schools, grade levels and student subgroups will be made available to guide the efforts of other school districts seeking to meet student needs.

“Santa Fe Public Schools now has data on every single student’s ability to access internet resources, which allows us to be much more focused on individual needs and challenges, and provide student-specific solutions. No district can afford to make guesses about connecting students. We now have a much better understanding of the factors that prevent all students from fully participating in hybrid learning and can take corrective action,” said Tom Ryan, Chair, Educator Advisory Group & Chief Information & Strategy Officer, Santa Fe Public Schools (NM).

“We are pleased to be a part of this study. The data set that is being created provides amazing information that will help districts be in a better position to address student learning and engagement issues related to limited internet access,” said Gautham Sampath, CEO of Innive.

“The abrupt shift to online learning a year ago cast longstanding disparities in education into sharp relief. Internet access remains critical to supporting student learning especially during these unprecedented times,” said Sandra Liu Huang, Head of Education at CZI. “The work that CoSN is doing to define the broadband need is absolutely vital to connect students and teachers, provide access to high quality resources and build an equitable future for all students during the pandemic and beyond.”

The forthcoming report on the results of this study is expected in spring 2021. Learn more about CoSN’s related work, including the Smart Education Networks by Design (SEND) and Digital Equity initiatives.

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About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our local communities. Our mission is to build a more inclusive, just, and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit www.chanzuckerberg.com.

About CoSN 

CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. CoSN provides thought leadership resources, community best practices and advocacy tools to help leaders succeed in the digital transformation. CoSN represents over 13 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education. cosn.org

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