National non-profit will focus on building public-private partnerships to connect over ten million students who lack home broadband.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – December 11, 2020 – Today, the national non-profit that successfully closed the classroom connectivity gap, announced it was delaying its planned sunset to connect students who lack home broadband. EducationSuperHighway will provide states and school districts with the tools they need to address home connectivity disparities that disproportionately impact students of color and those in high-poverty and rural communities across the United States.
In April, EducationSuperHighway pivoted resources to its Digital Bridge K-12 project when the pandemic hit. To date, that initiative has helped over 800 school districts in 41 states identify and connect students who lack a home Internet connection and dedicated learning device. A key output of their work is the K-12 Bridge to Broadband initiative, a mechanism that the organization views as a potential game-changer in closing the digital divide, citing the three million more students connected during the pandemic where states, cities, and school districts have partnered with ISPs and philanthropy.
In a report released this week, they outline that while developing strategies and resources to respond to the immediate crisis, best practices have emerged to inform a much-needed national strategy for closing the homework gap and the digital divide at large. The report sets out the three essential elements to connecting students for remote learning that will be the tenets of their work:
- Data: States and school districts need a repeatable way to identify students who lack home digital access (through district-led outreach, service provider data exchanges, or leveraging both approaches).
- Aggregated Procurement: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) need to offer affordable home connectivity solutions, streamlined for ease of adoption, so that states and districts can purchase home Internet access on behalf of students’ families.
- Funding: There needs to be federal funding for student home digital access.
Highlighting its K-12 Bridge to Broadband initiative – a collaboration with state agencies, and the national provider associations NCTA, USTelecom, NTCA, and ACA Connects, the organization has already secured the commitment of over 80 local and national ISPs who serve over 80% of the U.S. population. These ISPs have made the unprecedented commitment to share serviceability data with state agencies and school districts, helping them identify which students lack home Internet connections and who can be connected using existing service options. Under the program, ISPs create a “sponsored service” offering that enables school districts or states to purchase home Internet connections for their students who lack broadband subscriptions. The report also cites innovative public-private collaborations established during the pandemic, including those in North Dakota and Chicago, as the inspiration for this work.
“Our work on Digital Bridge K-12 revealed that we have a truly historic opportunity for advancing equal access to educational opportunity in the United States,” said Evan Marwell, Founder and CEO at EducationSuperHighway. “School districts and states need actionable data to identify students who lack home digital access and federal funding to connect them. I am thrilled to partner with CCSSO and the ISPs signed on to K-12 Bridge to Broadband – together, we can close the homework gap for good.”
Digital Bridge K-12 and its resources to support school district-led outreach and the implementation of home broadband and device solutions will transition to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). This announcement builds on EducationSuperHighway’s continued partnership with CCSSO. They previously collaborated to develop a blueprint to scale systemic, high-quality data collection through states, encourage Student Information System (SIS) vendors to incorporate the students’ home digital access data fields, and track national and state-level progress towards closing the classroom connectivity gap.
“The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and EducationSuperHighway share a common goal of supporting states and school districts to identify students impacted by the digital divide,” said CCSSO Chief Executive Officer Carissa Moffat Miller. “The best practices and strategies created as part of the Digital Bridge K-12 project are vital tools that will help ensure equitable access to digital learning for all students.”
Read the full report here.