SAULT STE. MARIE —The K-12 Citizen Science research study, recently published by Michigan State University, shows that Michigan students without internet are disadvantaged compared to students who do.
“Internet connectivity is becoming an essential part of the lives of everyone, including our students,” said Dr. Tim Hall, superintendent of Sault Area Schools. “Because of the support of our voters in 2014, our schools are better connected than ever before, which supports kids while they’re at school. But learning does not stop at the end of the school day, so improved broadband service is vital to kids at home, too. As the world becomes increasingly connected, all students must have access to, and will benefit from, the available information that is relevant to their academic work. The findings of this study are disappointing, but not surprising. If we truly want to give our kids a competitive advantage, they need access to reliable broadband service.”
On March 3, the Michigan State University Quello Center released the results of the study, titled “Broadband and Student Performance Gaps,” to the public. This study aimed to find the negative impact which lack of broadband connectivity outside the school has on students. The study was developed and carried out in partnership with Merit Network and 15 Michigan school districts. The data found was collected from school districts covering Mecosta County, St. Clair County, and the Eastern Upper Peninsula from the Tahquamenon area to St. Ignace and Sault Ste. Marie.
The researchers who conducted this study included over 3,000 Michigan students from 21 different schools and 173 classrooms across the state, grades 8 to 11. Using in-class, pen-and-paper surveys, student PSAT and SAT scores, and home internet speed tests, survey questions inquired of students’ online activities, homework completion, subject grades, digital skills, media use, to their goals, experiences and attitudes, and career interests.
The results of the report revealed that rural middle and high school students are more likely to have slow Internet connections or limited access from home and to fall behind in homework, grades, digital skills and standardized test scores. Additionally, students with no high-speed internet access at home are also less likely to plan to attend a college or a university. As a result of these educational setbacks, this can negatively affect a student’s chances of college admissions, academic success and career opportunities. It reflects the need for improved infrastructure in rural communities. This education gap from lack of proper access to materials exists regardless of differences in socioeconomic status, such as student race and ethnicity, family income, or parental education.
Students who live in rural and socioeconomically disadvantaged students are least likely to have broadband internet access at their home. Only 47 percent of those who live in rural areas do have this access compared to 77 percent of students who live in suburban areas. Of all students who do not have this access, 36 percent live in a home with no computer and 58 percent live on a farm or other rural setting.
“We find that students who do not have access to the internet from home or are dependent on a cell phone alone for access perform lower on a range of metrics, including digital skills, homework completion, and grade point average,” said the study from the University. “They are also less likely to intend on completing a college or university degree. A deficit in digital skills compounds many of the inequalities in access and contributes to students performing lower on standardized test scores, such as the SAT, and being less interested in careers related to science, technology, engineering, and math.”
As a result of this internet unavailability, students who could only get internet access at home on their cell phone struggled to utilize the resources available online, whether due to slow connectivity or caps on data use from local service providers. This means that gaps in broadband access could lead to economic impacts on entire communities.
There are more than a few options for broadband in the Sault Ste. Marie area. AT&T is the top internet provider in the city, according to broadbandsearch.net. Their internet pricing starts at $40 per month and they rank at a 3.5 stars on a 5 star-scale. Their store is at 2972 West 8th St and their phone number is (906) 253-1595.
Spectrum offers fiber, cable internet, and phone services in the Sault. Their coverage area for the city is 91.29 percent. Spectrum internet starts at $49.99 a month and features download speeds of 100 MBPS, no data caps, included modem, access to Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation, and security suite included for up to 10 computers. This internet provider also ranks at 3.5 stars out of 5. They are located at 2682 Ashmun Street and their phone number is (866) 874-2389.
HughesNet is another satellite and phone provider in the Eastern Upper Peninsula, such as DeTour, Barbeau, and Rudyard. Their coverage area is 98.56 percent, free standard installation included, no lease set-up fees, and includes unlimited data with no hard data limits. They rank at 4 stars out of 5. Plans vary from location to location but start at $59.99 a month. Their phone number is 1 (877) 481-8912.
For more information about this study, please visit quello.msu.edu/broadbandgap.
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