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Which States Have the Biggest Home Internet Access Gaps for Students?

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Mississippi, Arkansas, and New Mexico have the highest percentages of students who lack adequate home technology for remote learning, a new analysis from the National Education Association found. 

NEA, the nation's largest teachers union, worked with the research firm Public Policy Associates to synthesize 2018 Census data on household internet and digital device access. The groups used those figures to approximate the number of students who don't have internet access, a working digital device, or both, at home. The numbers have likely changed somewhat this year as the urgency of getting students connected at home increased dramatically during the pandemic.

At the time the data were collected, only 54 percent of Mississippi students, 58 percent of Arkansas students, and 63 percent of New Mexico students had both home internet access and a digital device.

By contrast, 13 states had more than 80 percent of students who met the NEA's minimum threshold for remote learning capability. Ten of those 13 states are in the northeast, including the top three: in descending order, New Hampshire (87 percent), Massachusetts (85 percent), and Connecticut (84 percent).

The NEA report also reinforces widely circulated findings from other organizations that more than 12 million of the nation's students don't have the technology at home to stay engaged in remote or hybrid instruction.

For more details, including maps that illustrate students' technology access state by state and county by county, read the full report.

Which groups of students are most likely to lack "full access" to remote learning?

  • Native American/Alaskan Native children (50 percent)
  • Children in households below the federal poverty line (47 percent)
  • Children whose parents are renters (37 percent)
  • Black children (36 percent)
  • Hispanic/Latinx children (34 percent)
  • Children whose parents don't have a bachelor's degree (34 percent)
  • Children in households with at least one unemployed parent (30 percent)

What solutions does the NEA recommend for closing these gaps?

  • A national commitment to universal broadband access (also supported by 54 percent of school district leaders and principals)
  • A national commitment to getting one working digital device in the hands of every K-12 student
  • More aggressive school-level efforts to document students' home technology situations
  • More federal funding and support for schools to tackle these gaps (also supported by 68 percent of school district leaders and principals)
  • More emphasis among teachers on instructional plans that work for all students, regardless of technology access
  • More robust racial bias training for educators to ensure learning environments, whether in-person or virtual, are inclusive

Photo: Cydney Suber, a senior at Norristown Area High School, does schoolwork at her home. The Norristown district in Pennsylvania has given a digital device to every student. (Michael Rubinkam/AP)

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