New study finds 65,000 Colorado students don’t have internet access to learn from home

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FILE – In this April 9, 2020, file photo, Sunnyside Elementary School fourth-grader Miriam Amacker does school work in her room at her family’s home in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

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DENVER (KDVR) — A new study released by the Colorado Education Initiative found tens of thousands of Colorado students do not have the tools they need to learn online at home, putting them at risk to fall behind.

The study found approximately 53,000 children need wifi-enabled devices and 65,860 children need internet access at home. Without these necessary tools to learn from home, children could struggle to learn effectively and risk falling behind their classmates.

The study was conducted by the Colorado Education Initiative and the Colorado Department of Education. Researchers interviewed leaders at school districts, charter schools, facility schools and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services from March 27 to April 4 about their students’ needs since in-person learning was suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers found multiple factors hindered students’ ability to learn from home. As for internet accessibility, educators found hotspots aren’t always an option in rural areas due to limited cell phone service. Districts also said they’ve had a difficult time purchasing all the hotspots they need for students because hotspots are on backorder due to heightened demand.

The study found many families don’t have enough wifi-enabled devices for all their students to learn from home at the same time. Researchers also found older devices provided by some districts are too out-of-date and not compatible with current online learning software.

Colorado’s Education Commissioner Katy Anthes said educators are concerned that students already at risk of falling behind their classmates are more likely to struggle to learn online.

“I know that our educators and school leaders are struggling with the inequities that may be widening right now — students who were already behind are in some cases falling further behind,” said Anthes in a press release about the study’s results.

Anthes said the results of the study will be “incredibly useful” in finding solutions to these problems.

“The information from this needs inventory will help policy makers and potential donors know how to target resources to ensure that we are supporting our most vulnerable students,” said Anthes in a press release.

In addition to the problems identified, researchers also found examples of incredible efforts by educators, students and families working together to meet the needs of families, provide devices to students and increase internet connectivity.

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