Disparities in Education Regarding the Use of Technology

Research Problem

E-government processes refer to the transformation of government processes using interactive communication tools. The Internet is an appropriate way of improving interactive communication processes among people and institutions. Disparities in students’ learning in the New York City public schools have been caused by inequitable access to learning opportunities. The problem has been aggravated by economic and social segregation in the city. Some public schools exhibit widely disparate instructional quality, technology equipment, and achievement outcomes. According to a recent Pew Research report, some school-aged students from low-income households lack reliable access to fast-speed Internet and relevant resources to complete schoolwork at home (Auxier & Anderson, 2020). This gap is more pronounced for students from black, Hispanic, and lower-income households. The Pew Research analysis revealed that 6 percent of eighth-grade students in the U.S. reported that they never use the Internet at home to do their homework (Auxier & Anderson, 2016). Enhancing ITC access and usage can help alleviate some of the factors causing the disparities in education among students in the New York City public schools.

Review of Relevant Research

Several studies have shown that discriminatory access to learning resources is one cause of the difference in students’ performance. The U.S. Federal government initiated programs such as eRate and Title I funds usage in purchasing academic resources in a move to address equity concerns related to differential access to digital tools and the Internet (Darling-Aduana, 2020). The programs, however, were availed to well-performing students while lower-performing, minority students were sidelined. Online classes improve students’ interactivity in the learning environment and participation in problem-solving and critical thinking tasks (Darling-Aduana, 2020). However, students from low-income family backgrounds are disadvantaged as they cannot use these digital tools for learning.

While conceding that inequality could result in differences in students’ academic achievement, Hart et al. (2019) agree that digital learning tools can help in solving the problem due to availability and increased Internet speeds which reduces geographic constraints experienced by poor students in remote areas. Jacob et al. (2016) conquer that “the increasing speed and availability of Internet access can reduce many of the geographic constraints that have disadvantaged poor students” (p. 243). Due to the scalability of educational software, applications and online classes can be accessed by students throughout a state and the entire state.

Major Causes

There are other factors alongside economic and racial segregation which cause inequitable access to learning opportunities. In the study by Hart et al. (2019), other factors related to family resources such as parental education and household composition can result in disparities in education among students. For some families, sufficient broadband infrastructure such as high-speed Internet and technological equipment such as laptops and personal computers are simply too expensive, thus often forcing multiple people in the same household to have to share one or two devices. The study by Hart et al. (2019) further revealed that school resources such as the student-teacher ratio and school facilities also influence students’ learning.

According to the U.S. Department of Education (n.d), structural barriers such as inequitable funding systems and economic and racial segregation exacerbate the identified problem since most needy schools in low-income communities receive little local and state funding contrary to expectations. According to the U.S. Department of Education (n.d.), few students from low-income and minority families complete their education since they face expulsion, suspension, and dropouts and are less likely to access qualified teachers and effective curricula.

Possible Solutions

The state government of New York should prioritize schools in low-income areas in resource allocation to facilitate the procurement of academic resources. Furthermore, more teachers should be employed in populated schools to lower the student-teacher ratio. When more teachers are employed, there will be increased contact with the students on the teachers’ part, which can facilitate the process of knowledge transfer. Lastly, the government, in collaboration with established telecommunication companies, should avail affordable, reliable, and high-speed Internet services to the students for academic purposes. Students from low-income families should be provided with laptops to facilitate their online classes. More specifically, the stakeholders can tailor education-specific data offers to the student to enable them to extend their learning to the Internet even from home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. High-speed Internet would ensure that students from remote areas do not miss learning programs due to geographical issues.

Implementation

Access to reliable Internet and the devices required to utilize it are essential for high-quality, equitable learning. Irrespective of socioeconomic status, racial background, and location, it is critical to ensure that e all students have what they need to learn. Provision of laptops and internet services to deserving students. To achieve this goal, the federal and New York City governments should consider investing more financial resources in building broadband infrastructure and in programs such as the federal E-Rate program. After securing additional funding, the city Department of Education should assess the students’ backgrounds to identify the needy and minority students who may be allocated laptops that they can use for academic research. A laptop like Lenovo would cost about $300, and suppose the government wishes to sponsor about 500,000 students, which would be around $200,000,000 inclusive of data services.

Measuring Success

To assess the success of the recommended solution, the exam results of the students provided with laptops will be analyzed, and a comparison made to their preceding results. Variations in student achievement rates will be evaluated over a period of time to determine the actual impact of the program on the learning disparities. In addition to achievement rates, other performance indicators such as student enrollment, graduation, dropout, and digital literacy rates will be measured to determine the overall success of the solution.

Conclusion

Access to reliable Internet and the devices required to utilize it are essential for high-quality, equitable learning. Irrespective of socioeconomic status, racial background, and location, it is critical to ensure that e all students have what they need to learn. To reduce persistent achievement disparities, the state government of New York should consider increasing financial allocation to the school serving students from low-income and minority households to enable them access to relevant learning resources. Such programs would enable New York City public schools to purchase and provide reliable, high-speed Internet, connected devices, and other technologies required to enhance learning and instruction. However, there is no certainty that the provision of laptops and the Internet can improve students’ performance as this depends on other factors such as self-discipline, availability of power, and teacher or parental supervision.

References

Auxier, B. & Anderson, M. (2020). As schools close due to the coronavirus, some U.S. students face a digital ‘homework gap’. Pew Research. Web.

Darling-Aduana, J. (2020). High school student experiences and learning in online courses: Implications for educational equity and the future of Learning [Doctoral dissertation, Vanderbilt University]. Vanderbilt University Institutional Repository.

Hart, C. M., Berger, D., Jacob, B., Loeb, S., & Hill, M. (2019). Online learning, offline outcomes: Online course taking and high school student performance. AERA Open, 5(1), 1-17. Web.

Jacob, B., Berger, D., Hart, C., & Loeb, S. (2016). Can technology help promote equality of educational opportunities? RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 2(5), 242-271. Web.

The US Department of Education (n.d). Equity of opportunity. Web.