IES Blog

Institute of Education Sciences

Students’ Internet Access Before and During the Coronavirus Pandemic by Household Socioeconomic Status

The pandemic has focused attention on the resources needed for students to engage equitably in educational opportunities, particularly during remote learning. While access to computers and the internet were important to education prior to the pandemic—as tools for word processing, research, and communication after school hours, or even as the primary means of schooling—they became essential tools for students to remain engaged during the 2020–21 academic year. Reflecting this importance both before and during the pandemic, recent NCES blogs have highlighted data on virtual schools and geographic differences in digital access. This blog presents additional insight on these topics from the Condition of Education 2021. Specifically, it highlights patterns of inequity in access to educational technology by socioeconomic status, both before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Before the Coronavirus Pandemic

According to the American Community Survey (ACS),1 the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. For instance, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those whose parents had attained a bachelor’s or higher degree (99 percent) and lowest for those whose parents had less than a high school credential (83 percent) (figure 1).

Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the higher the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access in 2019. Specifically, the percentage with home internet access was highest for those in families in the highest income quarter (99 percent) and lowest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (89 percent) (figure 1).2


Figure 1. Percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and home internet access only through a smartphone, by parental education and family income quarter: 2019

1 Includes those who completed high school through equivalency credentials, such as the GED.
NOTE: Includes only 3- to 18-year-olds living in households (respondents living in group quarters such as shelters, healthcare facilities, or correctional facilities were not asked about internet access). Includes 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 702.12.


While internet access is nearly universal in the United States (95 percent of all 3- to 18-year-olds had access in 2019), not all families access the internet the same way. Specifically, 88 percent had access through a computer,3 and 6 percent relied on a smartphone for their home internet access.4,5

In 2019, the higher the level of parental educational attainment, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. Similarly, the higher the level of family income, the lower the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access. For instance, the percentage who relied on a smartphone for their home internet access was lowest for those in families in the highest income quarter (1 percent) and highest for those in families in the lowest income quarter (14 percent) (figure 1).

Taken together with the patterns for overall home internet access, these findings reveal that access only through a smartphone is generally more common for groups with lower rates of internet access overall. Importantly, although smartphones can be useful tools for staying connected, they offer more limited functionality for applications such as word processing or interactive learning platforms. In other words, overall levels of internet access mask further inequities in mode of access, which have implications for whether/how the internet can be used as an educational tool.

During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As students moved en masse to online learning during the pandemic, access to internet-connected devices became a requirement for students to participate effectively in their new learning environments. The pre-pandemic data described above suggest that not all students would have been in a position to take advantage of these remote classrooms, and that this would be true of a higher percentage of students whose parents had lower incomes or lower levels of educational attainment.  

Some schools and districts helped students meet these needs by providing computers or paying for home internet access. Data from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) show that 59 percent of adults6 with children in the home enrolled in school7 reported that computers were provided by their school or district. This percentage was generally higher for those with lower 2019 household incomes, ranging from 68 percent for adults with household incomes below $25,000 to 50 percent for adults with household incomes over $150,000 (figure 2). A similar pattern was observed for internet access. Overall, 4 percent of adults said internet access was paid for by their students’ district or school, ranging from 8 percent for adults in the lowest household income range to about 1 percent for those in the highest household income range. These patterns are consistent with higher rates of assistance going to families with higher rates of expected need (as indicated in figure 1).


Figure 2. Among adults 18 years old and over who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school, percentage reporting that computers and internet access were always or usually available and provided or paid for by schools or school districts, by income level: September 2 to 14, 2020

NOTE: Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Data in this figure are considered experimental and do not meet NCES standards for response rates. The survey question refers to enrollment at any time during the 2020–21 school year.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Household Pulse Survey, collection period of September 2 to 14, 2020. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, tables 218.85 and 218.90.


Even with this assistance from schools and districts, however, socioeconomic inequalities in students’ access to computers and internet were not eliminated. In general, the percentage of adults who reported that these resources were always or usually available increased with household income. For example, in September 2020, the percentage of adults reporting that computers were always or usually available was highest for the two household income levels at or above $100,000 and lowest for the two household income levels below $50,000. Similarly, the percentage of adults reporting that internet access was always or usually available was higher for the three household income levels at or above $75,000 than for the three household income levels below $75,000.

Both before and during the pandemic, these data show that overall access to education technology in the United States is high. This access is bolstered by widespread access to mobile devices like smartphones and—at least during the 2020–21 academic year—by resources provided by students’ schools and districts, particularly for students from lower socioecnomic backgrounds. Nevertheless, inequalities persist. As the prevalence of technology in education grows, it will be important to continue to track equity not only in access but also in quality of access and frequency and competency of use.

Explore the following resources to learn more about students’ access to, use of, and competency with education technology.

General

Access

  • Condition of Education 2021

Use

Competency

 

By Véronique Irwin, NCES


[1] The American Community Survey (ACS) provides a large monthly sample of demographic, socioeconomic, and housing data comparable in content to the Long Forms of the Decennial Census. Aggregated over time, these data serve as a replacement for the Long Form of the Decennial Census. This section of the blog post uses data from ACS to describe the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access and the percentage with home internet access only through a smartphone in 2019.

[2] The highest quarter refers to the top 25 percent of all family incomes; the middle-high quarter refers to the 51st through the 75th percentile of all family incomes; the middle-low quarter refers to the 26th through the 50th percentile of all family incomes; and the lowest quarter refers to the bottom 25 percent of all family incomes.

[3] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds with home internet access through one or more of the following types of computers: desktop or laptop, tablet or other portable wireless computer, or “some other type of computer.” Includes homes having both smartphones and any of these types of computers.

[4] Refers to the percentage of 3- to 18-year-olds who had home internet access only through a smartphone but did not have any of the types of computers listed in endnote 3.

[5] Detail does not sum to totals because of rounding.

[6] The Household Pulse Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau and other agencies including NCES, gathers information from adults about household educational activities (as well as other topics). Because the data focus on adults, findings from HPS are not directly comparable to those from ACS mentioned above.

[7] According to HPS data, 52 million adults had children under age 18 in the home enrolled in school in September 2020. Overall, two-thirds (67 percent) of these adults reported that classes for their children had moved to a distance learning format using online resources.

How Remote Data Collection Enhanced One Grantee’s Classroom Research During COVID-19

Under an IES grant, Michigan State University, in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Education, the Michigan Center for Educational Performance and Information, and the University of Michigan, is assessing the implementation, impact, and cost of the Michigan “Read by Grade 3” law intended to increase early literacy outcomes for Michigan students. In this guest blog, Dr. Tanya Wright and Lori Bruner discuss how they were able to quickly pivot to a remote data collection plan when COVID-19 disrupted their initial research plan.  

The COVID-19 pandemic began while we were planning a study of early literacy coaching for the 2020-2021 academic year. It soon became abundantly clear that restrictions to in-person research would pose a major hurdle for our research team. We had planned to enter classrooms and record videos of literacy instruction in the fall. As such, we found ourselves faced with a difficult choice: we could pause our study until it became safer to visit classrooms and miss the opportunity to learn about literacy coaching and in-person classroom instruction during the pandemic, or we could quickly pivot to a remote data collection plan.

Our team chose the second option. We found that there are multiple technologies available to carry out remote data collection. We chose one of them (a device known as the Swivl) that included a robotic mount, where a tablet or smartphone can be placed to take the video, with a 360-degree rotating platform that works in tandem with a handheld or wearable tracker and an app that allows videos to be instantly uploaded to a cloud-based storage system for easy access.

Over the course of the school year, we captured over 100 hours of elementary literacy instruction in 26 classrooms throughout our state. While remote data collection looks and feels very different from visiting a classroom to record video, we learned that it offers many benefits to both researchers and educators alike. We also learned a few important lessons along the way.

First, we learned remote data collection provides greater flexibility for both researchers and educators. In our original study design, we planned to hire data collectors to visit classrooms, which restricted our recruitment of schools to a reasonable driving distance from Michigan State University (MSU). However, recording devices allow us to capture video anywhere, including rural areas of our state that are often excluded from classroom research due to their remote location. Furthermore, we found that the cost of purchasing and shipping equipment to schools is significantly less than paying for travel and people’s time to visit classrooms. In addition, using devices in place of data collectors allowed us to easily adapt to last-minute schedule changes and offer teachers the option to record video over multiple days to accommodate shifts in instruction due to COVID-19.

Second, we discovered that we could capture more classroom talk than when using a typical video camera. After some trial and error, we settled on a device with three external wireless microphones: one for the teacher and two additional microphones to place around the classroom. Not only did the extra microphones record audio beyond what the teacher was saying, but we learned that we can also isolate each microphone during data analysis to hear what is happening in specific areas of the classroom (even when the teacher and children were wearing masks). We also purchased an additional wide-angle lens, which clipped over the camera on our tablet and allowed us to capture a wider video angle.  

Third, we found remote data collection to be less intrusive than sending a research team into schools. The device is compact and can be placed on any flat surface in the classroom or be mounted on a basic tripod. The teacher has the option to wear the microphone on a lanyard to serve as a hands-free tracker that signals the device to rotate to follow the teacher’s movements automatically. At the end of the lesson, the video uploads to a password-protected storage cloud with one touch of a button, making it easy for teachers to share videos with our research team. We then download the videos to the MSU server and delete them from our cloud account. This set-up allowed us to collect data with minimal disruption, especially when compared to sending a person with a video camera to spend time in the classroom.

As with most remote work this year, we ran into a few unexpected hurdles during our first round of data collection. After gathering feedback from teachers and members of our research team, we were able to make adjustments that led to a better experience during the second round of data collection this spring. We hope the following suggestions might help others who are considering such a device to collect classroom data in the future:

  1. Consider providing teachers with a brief informational video or offering after-school training sessions to help answer questions and address concerns ahead of your data collection period. We initially provided teachers with a detailed user guide, but we found that the extra support was key to ensuring teachers had a positive experience with the device. You might also consider appointing a member of your research team to serve as a contact person to answer questions about the remote data collection during data collection periods.
  2. As a research team, it is important to remember that team members will not be collecting the data, so it is critical to provide teachers with clear directions ahead of time: what exactly do you want them to record? Our team found it helpful to send teachers a brief two-minute video outlining our goals and then follow up with a printable checklist they could use on the day they recorded instruction. 
  3. Finally, we found it beneficial to scan the videos for content at the end of each day. By doing so, we were able to spot a few problems, such as missing audio or a device that stopped rotating during a lesson. While these instances were rare, it was helpful to catch them right away, while teachers still had the device in their schools so that they could record missing parts the next day.

Although restrictions to in-person research are beginning to lift, we plan to continue using remote data collection for the remaining three years of our project. Conducting classroom research during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven challenging at every turn, but as we adapted to remote video data collection, we were pleased to find unanticipated benefits for our research team and for our study participants.


This blog is part of a series focusing on conducting education research during COVID-19. For other blog posts related to this topic, please see here.

Tanya S. Wright is an Associate Professor of Language and Literacy in the Department of Teacher Education at Michigan State University.

Lori Bruner is a doctoral candidate in the Curriculum, Instruction, and Teacher Education program at Michigan State University.

Students’ Access to the Internet and Digital Devices at Home

This blog continues a robust discussion about National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) data collected in the recent past that can illuminate the issue of students’ access to the internet and digital devices at home. A few years ago—well before the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders shone a bright light on the inequities across the nation—NCES began dedicating resources to improve its data collection and policymaking around education technology and equity at the district, state, and national levels.

The 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading questionnaire asked 4th- and 8th-grade students if they had internet access at home and if there was a computer or tablet at home that they could use (referred to in this blog as having “digital access”). These data provide a pre–coronavirus pandemic snapshot of students’ digital access. Across all public schools, 81 percent of 4th-grade students and 88 percent of 8th-grade students said that they had digital access (figures 1 and 2). Thus, 19 percent of 4th-grade students and 12 percent of 8th-grade students in public schools may not have either access to the internet or the devices required to carry out distance learning.  


Figure 1. Percentage of 4th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Figure 2. Percentage of 8th-grade public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by state: 2019

* Significantly different from the National Public estimate at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


There were also differences across states in 2019. For 4th-grade students, the percentages who had digital access varied by state, ranging from 70 percent in New Mexico to 88 percent in New Jersey (table 1). Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming had lower percentages of students who had digital access than the national average (figure 1 and table 1). For 8th-grade students, the percentages who had access ranged from 81 percent in Oklahoma to 93 percent in Connecticut (table 1). Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia had lower percentages of students who had access than the national average (figure 2 and table 1).


Table 1. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and state: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

State

Percent

s.e

 

Percent

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

Alabama

79

(1.2)

 

86

(0.8)

Alaska

 

 

Arizona

78

(0.9)

84

(0.9)

Arkansas

73

(0.9)

83

(1.1)

California

81

(0.9)

 

88

(0.9)

 

Colorado

 

 

Connecticut

85

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

Delaware

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.6)

 

District of Columbia

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

DoDEA

88

(0.7)

96

(0.4)

Florida

85

(0.7)

89

(0.7)

 

Georgia

83

(0.9)

90

(0.7)

Hawaii

79

(1)

 

86

(0.8)

Idaho

77

(0.9)

88

(0.8)

 

Illinois

83

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

Indiana

80

(0.9)

 

90

(1.1)

 

Iowa

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

 

Kansas

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

Kentucky

81

(0.8)

 

87

(0.7)

Louisiana

79

(1)

 

85

(0.9)

Maine

82

(0.9)

 

89

(0.7)

 

Maryland

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.6)

Massachusetts

87

(0.8)

93

(0.7)

Michigan

80

(1)

 

90

(0.8)

 

Minnesota

83

(1)

92

(0.7)

Mississippi

77

(1.2)

84

(0.7)

Missouri

78

(0.8)

89

(0.8)

 

Montana

 

 

Nebraska

81

(0.9)

 

90

(0.7)

Nevada

79

(1)

 

85

(0.7)

New Hampshire

 

 

New Jersey

88

(0.8)

93

(0.6)

New Mexico

70

(1.2)

82

(0.8)

New York

84

(0.7)

91

(0.7)

North Carolina

81

(0.8)

 

89

(0.8)

 

North Dakota

81

(1)

 

90

(0.7)

Ohio

82

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Oklahoma

73

(1.1)

81

(0.9)

Oregon

77

(1)

87

(0.8)

 

Pennsylvania

85

(0.8)

91

(0.7)

Rhode Island

84

(0.8)

90

(0.6)

South Carolina

81

(1)

 

90

(0.9)

 

South Dakota

 

 

Tennessee

77

(0.9)

86

(0.9)

Texas

75

(0.9)

82

(1)

Utah

 

 

Vermont

81

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Virginia

82

(0.8)

 

91

(0.8)

Washington

80

(1)

 

89

(0.8)

 

West Virginia

81

(1)

 

86

(0.7)

Wisconsin

83

(0.9)

 

91

(0.7)

Wyoming

78

(0.9)

88

(0.7)

 

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly higher than the estimate for National Public at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
† Not applicable.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant. “National public” refers to the results for all students in public schools.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


Looking at the results of NAEP’s 2019 Trial Urban Districts Assessment (TUDA), Miami-Dade, Florida, had the highest percentages of 4th- and 8th-grade students who had digital access (88 percent and 93 percent, respectively) (table 2). Fresno, California, had the lowest percentage of 4th-grade students (67 percent) who had access and Dallas, Texas, had the lowest percentage of 8th-grade students (73 percent) who had access.


Table 2. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and Trial Urban District Assessments (TUDA): 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Large city

Percentage

 

Percentage

 

   All large cities

78

 

85

 

Albuquerque

75

 

85

 

Atlanta

82

86

 

Austin

78

 

83

 

Baltimore City

73

84

 

Boston

81

89

Charlotte

83

91

Chicago

80

 

88

 

Clark County (NV)

78

 

84

 

Cleveland

74

80

Dallas

71

73

Denver

 

 

Detroit

70

79

District of Columbia (DCPS)

83

90

Duval County (FL)

84

89

Fort Worth (TX)

72

88

Fresno

67

77

Guilford County (NC)

78

 

85

 

Hillsborough County (FL)

81

 

87

 

Houston

71

75

Jefferson County (KY)

82

88

Los Angeles

76

 

85

 

Miami-Dade

88

93

Milwaukee

75

 

85

 

New York City

81

 

89

Philadelphia

78

 

86

 

San Diego

81

 

90

Shelby County (TN)

78

 

86

 

Significantly higher than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Large City at the .05 level of statistical significance.
‡ Reporting standards not met. Sample size insufficient to permit a reliable estimate.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


In 2019, higher percentages of 8th-grade students than of 4th-grade students had digital access. This pattern was consistent across all states and TUDA jurisdictions. On average, in both 4th and 8th grades, higher percentages of students in suburban areas than of students in cities, towns, and rural areas had access (table 3).


Table 3. Percentage of public school students in the NAEP reading assessment that reported having internet access and a computer or tablet at home, by grade and locale: 2019

 

Grade 4

 

Grade 8

 

Locale

Percentage

s.e

 

Percentage

s.e

 

   National public

81

(0.2)

 

88

(0.2)

 

City

79

(0.4)

86

(0.4)

Suburban

84

(0.3)

 

92

(0.3)

 

Town

77

(0.8)

86

(0.6)

Rural

78

(0.4)

87

(0.4)

↓ Significantly lower than the estimate for Suburban at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 2019 Reading Assessment.


While the NAEP data reveal state-level patterns in students’ digital access before the pandemic, the Household Pulse Survey (HPS) provides insight into the digital access of students across the country during the pandemic. The HPS is conducted by the Census Bureau and seven other federal statistical agency partners, including NCES. Since April 23, 2020, the HPS has provided weekly or biweekly estimates of the availability of computers and internet access to children for educational purposes.

In April 2020, 88 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that computers were always or usually available for educational purposes. By the end of March 2021, that percentage increased to 94 percent (table 4).

A similar pattern emerged in the HPS data for internet access. In April 2020, 91 percent of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school reported that the internet was always or usually available for educational purposes. In March 2021, that percentage had increased to 94 percent (table 4).


Table 4. Percentage of adults who had children under 18 in the home enrolled in school who reported that computers and internet access were always or usually available for educational purposes: 2020–21, selected time periods

 

Computers available

Access to internet

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

Percentage

s.e.

 

April 23 to May 5, 2020

88

(0.5)

 

91

(0.4)

 

March 17 to March 29, 2021

94

(0.4)

94

(0.4)

↑ Significantly higher than the estimate for April 23 to May 5, 2020, at the .05 level of statistical significance.
NOTE: Statistical comparison tests are based on unrounded numbers. Not all apparent differences between estimates are statistically significant.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Household Pulse Survey, selected periods, April 2021 through March 2021.


While these data provide a recent look into the technology landscape for students both before and during the pandemic, there is still a need to collect more and better data to understand digital inequities. For example, future NCES surveys could ask schools, students, and teachers about their technology use and access at home, what resources for learning and instruction they have at home, and the environment in which many students and teachers now find themselves learning and teaching.

 

Resources for more information:

 

By Cadelle Hemphill, AIR; Yan Wang, AIR: Diana Forster, AIR; Chad Scott, AIR; and Grady Wilburn, NCES

Announcing the Condition of Education 2021 Release

NCES is pleased to present the 2021 edition of the Condition of Education, an annual report mandated by the U.S. Congress that summarizes the latest data on education in the United States. This report uses data from across the center and from other sources and is designed to help policymakers and the public monitor educational progress.

Beginning in 2021, individual indicators can be accessed online on the newly redesigned Condition of Education Indicator System website. A synthesis of key findings from these indicators can be found in the Report on the Condition of Education, a more user-friendly PDF report.

A total of 86 indicators are included in this year’s Condition of Education, 55 of which were updated this year. As in prior years, these indicators present a range of topics from prekindergarten through postsecondary education, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. Additionally, this year’s 55 updated indicators include 17 indicators on school crime and safety.

For the 2021 edition of the Condition of Education, most data were collected prior to 2020, either during the 2018–19 academic year or in fall 2019. Therefore, with some exceptions, this year’s report presents findings from prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

At the elementary and secondary level (prekindergarten through grade 12), the data show that 50.7 million students were enrolled in public schools fall 2018, the most recent year for which data were available at the time this report was written. Public charter school enrollment accounted for 7 percent (3.3 million students) of these public school enrollments, more than doubling from 3 percent (1.6 million students) in 2009. In 2019, U.S. 4th- and 8th-grade students scored above the scale centerpoint (500 out of 1000) on both the math and science assessments in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

In 2020, 95 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds had at least a high school diploma or equivalent, while 39 percent had a bachelor’s or higher degree. These levels of educational attainment are associated with economic outcomes, such as employment and earnings. For example, among those working full time, year round, annual median earnings in 2019 were 59 percent higher for 25- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s or higher degree than for those with a high school diploma or equivalent.

In addition to regularly updated annual indicators, this year’s two spotlight indicators highlight early findings on the educational impact of the coronavirus pandemic from the Household Pulse Survey (HPS).

  • The first spotlight examines distance learning at the elementary and secondary level at the beginning of the 2020–21 academic year. Overall, among adults with children under 18 in the home enrolled in school, two-thirds reported in September 2020 that classes had been moved to a distance learning format using online resources. In order to participate in these remote learning settings, students must have access to computers and the internet. More than 90 percent of adults with children in their household reported that one or both of these resources were always or usually available to children for educational purposes in September 2020. At the same time, 59 percent of adults reported that computers were provided by the child’s school or district, while 4 percent reported that internet access was paid for by the child’s school or district. Although higher percentages of lower income adults reported such assistance, this did not eliminate inequalities in access to these resources by household income.
  • The second spotlight examines changes in postsecondary education plans for fall 2020 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among adults 18 years old and over who had household members planning to take classes in fall 2020 from a postsecondary institution, 45 percent reported that the classes at least one household member planned would be in different formats in the fall (e.g., formats would change from in-person to online), 31 percent reported that all plans to take classes in the fall had been canceled for at least one household member, and 12 percent reported that at least one household member would take fewer classes in the fall. Some 28 percent reported no change in fall plans to take postsecondary classes for at least one household member. The two most frequently cited reasons for the cancellation of plans were having the coronavirus or having concerns about getting the coronavirus (46 percent), followed by not being able to pay for classes/educational expenses because of changes to income from the pandemic (42 percent).

The Condition of Education also includes an At a Glance section, a Reader’s Guide, a Glossary, and a Guide to Sources, all of which provide additional background information. Each indicator includes references to the source data tables used to produce the indicator.

As new data are released throughout the year, indicators will be updated and made available online.

In addition to publishing the Condition of Education, NCES produces a wide range of other reports and datasets designed to help inform policymakers and the public about significant trends and topics in education. More information about the latest activities and releases at NCES may be found on our website or by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

 

By James L. Woodworth, NCES Commissioner

Educating English Learner Students During the Pandemic: Remote and In-Person Instruction and Assessment

The IES-funded R&D Center, the Center for the Success of English Learners (C-SEL), is undertaking a focused program of research aimed at improving access and outcomes for English Learners. One of C-SEL’s recent activities has been to develop resources to aid policymakers and practitioners working with middle school and secondary English learners. The research team at the Center, including Drs Diane August and Coleen Carlson, along with Maria Yolanda Cieslak and Kenneth Michael Nieser, recently released a brief on Educating English Learner Students During the Pandemic: Remote & In-person Instruction & Assessment-Recommendations and Resources for State and Districts. In this guest blog, the researchers provide an overview of the brief.

English Learners (ELs) benefit from specialized support to help them acquire second language proficiency and core content knowledge that builds on their cultural and linguistic assets. This specialized support is required by law, and the U.S. Department of Education reminded States that this is the case, even when learning is remote. Based on a review of the existing relevant literature, this brief provides detailed information related to the impact of remote learning on English Learners (ELs) and their teachers during the pandemic and the potential and limitations of using digital learning resources (DLRs) to educate these students. For instance, while DLRs have the potential to support learning and engagement for ELs, districts report barriers to their use, such as lack of home access to DLRs; teachers’ level of expertise and technology skills; and the lack of knowledge around what are the appropriate DLRs for ELs.

The brief also describes current legislation that authorizes funds for a variety of activities that could be used to support ELs and their families when instruction is delivered remotely. Some of these federal resources include:

  • Formula Grant Programs Under the Every Student Succeeds Act
  • CARES Act
  • Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act

In addition, the brief includes information about policies and resources for each of the 50 states in place in December 2020 that support districts and schools in instructing and assessing EL students remotely. It also includes a reading list of recent resources focused on remote learning for ELs, with brief descriptions of each resource and links to the resource.

In March 2021, the Center hosted a webinar to discuss recent recommendations for states and districts. One set of recommendations focuses on methods to enhance the learning and emotional well-being of EL students who have lost ground during the pandemic. Recommendations are also made for assessing ELs when schooling is or has been remote or hybrid. These recommendations can be found in the brief.  

In the upcoming months, C-SEL investigators look forward to preparing future blog posts and research briefs on the research of the Center and the students and teachers we are serving. Next up on the agenda is an overview of the students, highlighting their diversity, and some too often ignored, forgotten, or simply unknown characteristics of this important subgroup. Stay tuned!


Dr. Diane August is Principal at D. August and Associates and a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Dr. Coleen Carlson is an Associate Research Professor, and Associate Director at the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics (TIMES) at the University of Houston.

Ms. Maria Yolanda Cieslak is a Professional Development Specialist at the Center for Applied Linguistics.

Mr. Kenneth Michael Nieser is a Researcher at the Texas Institute for Measurement, Evaluation, and Statistics at the University of Houston.