Overdue IES 'homework gap' report to be released in early April

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Nearly nine months after the deadline passed for the Institute of Education Sciences’ “homework gap” report, the research, development and evaluation arm of the U.S. Department of Education has specified a release date: April 4, 2018.

The report will explore the digital divide in education. Specifically, it will focus on the inequities in digital learning created by students whose schools have high-speed broadband but whose homes do not — a problem often referred to in the edtech community as the “homework gap.”

The issue is a pressing one for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which is planning to roll back the Lifeline subsidized broadband program later this spring. Lifeline offers a small subsidy for rural and low-income homes seeking broadband access, and is used by almost 12.5 million people nationwide. Stakeholders agree eliminating the program would widen the gap between students who live in homes with high-speed internet and those without equivalent access.

When President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in December 2015, a directive was given to the IES to submit the report by June 2017, or within 18 months. The delay recently drew criticism from a coalition of education groups, which claimed that efforts to close the homework gap were stunted by the absence of an IES report.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, an outspoken advocate for educators and students, shared her concerns about the IES report and expressed urgency on the matter Tuesday during a Capitol Hill event on school broadband access.

“That study is more than nine months overdue. Nine months? That’s a school year,” Rosenworcel said. “I think it would be justice right now to make sure that we get that study released so we can all see what the homework gap looks like nationwide.”

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