In response to the closure of a majority of Colorado school districts and the transition to online learning for students across the state, The Colorado Futures Center is releasing its latest study: Who are Colorado’s School-Age Children Without Access to Internet? This brief is the first release by the Center since Jennifer Newcomer, former director of Shift Research Lab, joined as Research Director in early April.
Much has been written about the nearly 1 in 20 school-age children in Colorado who are living in households without internet. This brief is designed to help Colorado leaders and decision makers better understand who these children are, where they live, and how Colorado’s digital divide has the potential to widen the state’s existing educational achievement gap.
Specifically, the 54,000 school-age children in Colorado living in households reporting no internet access are:
- Overwhelmingly Hispanic: Two-thirds of children living without internet are Hispanic.
- Disproportionately Young: 49 percent of children without internet access are in elementary school.
- Largely Lower Income: 52 percent of children without internet live in households earning less than $50,000, with 25 percent in households learning less than $25,000.
- Geographically Dispersed: These children live in all regions of the state, but in higher numbers in Southwest Colorado and in the metro Denver region.
- Children of Essential Workers: A majority, 57 percent, of these children have at least one parent working in an essential industry.
While access to the internet is necessary, it’s not all that children need to thrive in a distance learning environment. Our state’s most vulnerable children are at risk of falling further behind their peers if the only support Colorado provides these young learners is an internet connection. As programs emerge to support households without internet connectivity, we urge all of Colorado to think more creatively, reach beyond technology-only solutions, and consider these questions:
- Given that many of the children without internet access have parents working in essential industries and likely are receiving child care, is there an opportunity to coordinate schooling with that child care?
- Can Colorado work quickly to develop programs that use the summer months to provide education support to vulnerable children, while also protecting public health?
- In what other ways can Colorado organize to support its most vulnerable learners?
- And, in the future, how can Colorado take the lessons learned from this crisis to minimize the gap that already exists?
This brief, which is attached here for your review, takes the important first step of better understanding the children who are at the greatest risk of falling behind in school because of COVID-19’s impact on Colorado’s education system.
Please let us know if you are interested in speaking with us about our research, the findings, and why Colorado leaders must think beyond technology infrastructure when addressing the impact that the current transition to online learning could have on our state’s most vulnerable children.
Editor’s Notes: Originally published as a media release by the Colorado Futures Center.