Board of Education Members Review Student Internet Connectivity Data
of the State Board of Education's (SBOE) Performance and Impact Committee
reviewed data on Ohio students' Internet connectivity and technology access at
their Monday meeting.
Department of Education (ODE) Director of Research, Evaluation and Advanced
Analytics Heather Boughton gave the Data Insights presentation. At previous
meetings, Boughton has also shared department data on school enrollment and
absenteeism. (See The Hannah Report, 3/8/21.)
of last week, Boughton said about 20 percent of students are still learning in
a hybrid model with the vast majority now having returned to in-person
Internet connectivity data Boughton presented was from a January 2021 survey
conducted by ODE and partner agencies. It asked districts to report what
percentage of their students do or do not have access to Internet at home as
well as the percentage of students with or without access to some form of
technology, such as a laptop, desktop, or smartphone. The survey also asked
districts to report what percentage of students they didn't have this
percent of traditional public schools responded to the survey, representing
about 1.3 million students. Results showed 83 percent of K-12 students had
either broadband access or a cellular connection from home. However, Boughton
said there was a great deal of variation across counties with rural areas
having lower Internet connectivity. Internet connectivity in Ohio counties
ranged from as low as 55 percent of students with Internet access to greater
than 90 percent.
said statewide, districts reported that just eight percent of students rely on
cellular connections for Internet access; however, that percentage was higher
among rural districts (10 percent) and major urban districts (23 percent).
wanted to make the distinction between home-based broadband access and cellular
connections, Boughton said, because cellular connections are generally less
reliable and slower than broadband.
were similar when it came to technology access. Overall, 92 percent of K-12
students had access to a laptop, desktop, tablet, or smartphone at home. While
only about one percent of students statewide are reliant on a smartphone for
technology access, that number is significantly higher in some rural counties,
noted how much easier accessing school materials online would be for students
with access to forms of technology besides a smartphone alone.
said districts reported that three percent or about 40,000 students do not have
Internet access, and about 14 percent of districts covering 182,000 students were
not sure if the students have Internet connectivity or not. Boughton stipulated
this doesn't mean that no one in the district knows if a student has Internet
access or not (teachers working with students may), but it does mean that
information is not being collected and shared in a systemic way for the
districts to use.
districts that were primarily fully remote during fall 2020, major urban
districts had the lowest connectivity from home rates (74 percent) and the
highest rate of unknown Internet connectivity (26 percent.)
those districts that were primarily remote last year, connectivity from home
for rural districts was at 88 percent with five percent no connectivity and
seven percent unknown. Town districts had the highest at-home connectivity, 95
percent, and two percent no connectivity and three percent unknown; 91 percent
of students in suburban districts had Internet connectivity at home with zero
percent having no connectivity and seven percent unknown. In urban districts,
93 percent of students had at-home connection and one percent no connectivity
and five percent unknown.
districts primarily using a five-day, in-person model in fall 2020, rural
districts reported the lowest rates of known Internet connectivity, Boughton
Boughton said the department does not yet have student-level data and cannot
say, for instance, how many Black students have Internet connectivity, the
department found that districts serving large populations of Black, Hispanic
and multiracial students reported lower rates of at-home Internet access and
higher rate rates unknown Internet connectivity compared to those serving large
populations of White students.
Member Jenny Kilgore said she would like to see the data disaggregated by
socioeconomic status, saying poverty gives a more accurate indicator of future
success than race does.
Member Diana Fessler, not on the committee, commented that she senses a
"hyper-focus on this home-based connectivity" which suggests
"there's very little priority in returning to conventional building-based
said she "respectfully disagrees" with this. Both she and Chris
Woolard, senior executive director at ODE's Center for Accountability and
Continuous Improvement, discussed the importance of Internet access at home for
students to complete schoolwork even when they are attending classes fully
responded, saying she understood this, but Internet access has
"historically not been at the taxpayer's expense."
additionally raised issue with what she said were unclear definitions for words
like "hybrid," "blended," "home-learning,"
"remote," and others used to refer to education models.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on May 10, 2021. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.