During the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, the COVID-19 pandemic dramatically impacted traditional methods of student learning. Traditional methods of delivery were uprooted by school closures and an unplanned shift to remote learning. Our teachers and school and district leaders responded by an unprecedented shift to digital learning and provided a digital device for every teacher and student in the state.
To deepen understanding about the impact of students’ lost instructional time, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) and SAS Institute Inc. (SAS) collaborated to leverage existing student assessment data and yield insight into how the pandemic disrupted student learning. Specifically, this whitepaper explores whether home internet access influenced differences in ELA progress between rural and urban students during the 2020-2021 school year and finds that home internet access was much more important during the pandemic than in prior years. In this analysis, we utilized county-level estimates from the NC Association of County Commissioners 2021 Map Book, as well as school-level estimates provided by school personnel from each school as part of the NC Digital Learning and Media Inventory.
A top priority for NCDPI is to support cross-sector efforts to ensure all North Carolina public school students have broadband internet access at home. Broadband is defined as 25:3 Mbps (wireline or fixed wireless), which must be 25 mbps download and 3 Mbps upload to be considered broadband. NC DPI IT Services Strategic goal of 100% of NC students effectively connected to the Internet by 2027.
"The pandemic taught us that we can solve the problem of students who are not connected due to economic reasons; however, the geographic location of students who live where no form of effective connectivity is available continues to require advocacy and partnerships to resolve."
~Dr. Vanessa Wrenn, Chief Information Officer, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction