May 28, 2022

New Report From RAND: The Digital Divide and COVID-19: Teachers’ Perceptions of Inequities in Students’ Internet Access and Participation in Remote Learning

From RAND:

RAND researchers investigate the relationship between teachers’ reports of their students’ internet access and their interaction with students and families during school closures related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. These data are drawn from the American Instructional Resources Survey, which was fielded in May and June 2020 and included questions to teachers regarding their instruction during school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Key Findings

Challenges with students’ access to the internet and other technologies were intertwined with concerns about communication with students and their families

  • Teachers’ responses to an open-ended question about the biggest instructional challenges during pandemic-related school closures suggest that their ability to communicate with students and their families was often constrained by students’ lack of internet or appropriate technologies at home (e.g., devices).

Teachers in high-poverty schools were more likely to report that their students lacked internet access at home

  • Only 30 percent of teachers in high-poverty schools reported that all or nearly all of their students had access to the internet at home, compared with 83 percent of teachers in low-poverty schools.

State contexts might shape internet access for students whose families live in poverty

  • The percentage of teachers reporting that all or nearly all of their students had access to the internet at home varied greatly by state. The data suggest that poverty is a huge predictor of home internet access, and also that—according to teachers’ reports—students in high-poverty homes were much less likely to have access to the internet in some states compared with others.

Source: RAND

Challenges related to technology—especially internet access—appeared to shape students’ engagement in learning and teachers’ communication with students and families

  • Teachers were more likely to report that their students were completing assignments and that they had contact with students’ families if their students had access to internet at home.

Direct to Full Text Report (Read Online)

Direct to Full Text Report (Download)
10 pages; PDF.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.