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Happy Thanksgiving to our DreamBox Community

Reflecting on educational equity and all those who work to level the playing field

DreamBox CEO and president Jessie Woolley-Wilson recently penned a special report on the topic of educational equity. In it, she explores the degree to which increasing economic disparities are eroding education opportunities in the United States. She also details important steps we as a nation can take to restore equity and improve outcomes for all students. Today, as we gather with family and friends to celebrate and give thanks, let’s be mindful of the role access to education has played in our own lives.

For example, if you’re reading this post, you have something that 21 million students in rural, urban, and suburban schools and communities currently lack: fast and reliable access to broadband. Imagine for a moment life without the world at your fingertips. Already today, you’ve probably scanned your social feed, checked your email, and maybe even researched recipes online. In fact, only when you finally sit down to Thanksgiving dinner will you truly disconnect from your tech—and maybe not even then (after all, somebody has to settle the bet about who starred in the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles).

Still, it’s easy to take something like Internet access for granted because it’s generally there when we need it. And, in an increasingly connected world, we feel the pain when we’re in an area with no Wi-Fi or a poor signal. Yet, according to Vox Media, some 23 percent of Americans in urban areas (and 28 percent in rural areas) don’t have access to or can’t afford broadband.

Although large cities are more likely to have broadband coverage than rural schools, only 54 percent of middle and high school teachers report that their students “have sufficient access to digital tools at school,” and 84 percent agree that “today’s digital technologies are leading to greater disparities between affluent and disadvantaged schools and school districts.”

For our students, lack of broadband access is more than just an inconvenience. It’s a disadvantage that prevents them from experiencing the kind of personalized learning that improves outcomes and changes lives.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, said that “In an increasingly unequal world the web can be a great leveler—but only if we hardwire the rights to privacy, freedom of expression, affordable access, and net neutrality into the rules of the game.”

Fortunately, thanks to the ConnectED Initiative, the FCC E-Rate program, and the efforts of organizations like EducationSuperhighway, more and more students are getting online every day. On Thanksgiving—and every day—we’re grateful to all those who are working to level the playing field for students everywhere and to ensure equal access to digital learning opportunities for all. And we’re grateful to education leaders and teachers like you for everything you do to prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s challenges. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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