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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs
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Education technology nonprofit ReadWorks is looking to mitigate the impact of the digital divide for students who lack in-home internet access.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues into 2021, schools across the country are sticking with distance and hybrid learning, and while that may help stem the spread of the virus, it is also negatively impacting students – predominately in rural and low-income households –  who lack in-home WiFi access.

ReadWorks serves 1.2 million K-12 teachers and 17 million students by providing free content, curricular supports, and digital tools intended to improve teacher instruction and student achievement in reading comprehension. The nonprofit does significant work with less-resourced schools, as 92 percent of the highest poverty K-8 schools in the country have teachers using ReadWorks.

To help students, the nonprofit has launched an offline mode, which allows students to use public WiFi to load ReadWorks materials to then use at home. According to ReadWorks, research shows that students who are fully distance learning have access to WiFi from public spaces, such as libraries. For students engaging in hybrid learning, they can now download materials at school for use at home.

“As an education technology nonprofit that has always provided its resources for free, ReadWorks is uniquely positioned to help mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis,” said Terry Bowman, executive director of ReadWorks. “Offline mode is our most meaningful step since schools closed last March in helping to close the digital divide. Providing access to high-quality materials to students without WiFi at home is so important because they are some of the most at risk for learning loss this year.”

While the pandemic prompted the creation of the offline mode, ReadWorks said the new mode will have long-term benefits. “The benefits of the new offline mode will last far longer than the pandemic, as remote learning will remain a part of some districts’ full set of educational options and disparities in access to completing at-home work existed long before the pandemic,” ReadWorks said in a statement.

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