Students from low-income families who do not have computers or Internet access at home are at a disadvantage when it comes to doing homework and increasing their computer skills.
Recognizing the importance of the issue, the Princeton Public Schools district, in partnership with the Princeton Education Foundation, has launched a new lending program in an effort to close the digital divide. The program provides all eligible students in the district with free Internet access and laptop computers.
“This program is an extraordinary step forward in ensuring both equity and excellence in the Princeton Public Schools,” said Princeton Superintendent Stephen Cochrane. “By providing electronic access for all, we are not only closing the achievement gap but accelerating our ability to move forward in the use of educational technology for every student.”
The goal of the program is to ensure that all students in the district, regardless of economic means, have sufficient access to online educational resources to build their academic skills, facilitate their communication between home and school, and increase their knowledge about the community, nation and the world. The students in the program can now complete computer-based assignments and conduct academic research at home.
Eligibility in the program is determined by a student’s enrollment in the federal free and reduced meals program or the family’s demonstration of other financial needs. The program is designed so that siblings in the same family may individually receive laptop and Internet access and data.
For the pilot program, twenty students in the district received laptops and a Wifi hotspot through the Sprint network, including three gigabytes of Internet data each month at no cost. Funding for this initiative was provided by the Princeton Education Foundation. The program will be expanded to serve close to 200 eligible students across the district.
The pilot program was accompanied by a training session at John Witherspoon Middle School for the first group of participating families, with more sessions to be scheduled as the program expands.