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Study Points to Differences in Digital Literacy by Income Level

Study Finds Online Literacy Gap Between Poor and Wealthy Students

There may be a reading achievement gap between lower income and more wealthy students, and this gap can extend beyond the classroom to the online realm. 

According to a recent study conducted by the University of Connecticut wealthier students "tend to perform better on tests of reading comprehension than their poorer peers, a longstanding trend that has been documented amply," as reported in a recent New York Times article. The study also showed that since the Internet is a large resource in and out of the classroom, "a separate gap has emerged, with lower-income students again lagging more affluent students in their ability to find, evaluate, integrate and communicate the information they find online."

The study, the article said, demonstrates "the general lack of literacy among all students, indicating that schools have not yet caught up to teach the skills needed to navigate digital information." Researchers looked at seventh-grade students from two middle schools in Connecticut and "compared reading test scores from the federal exams often known as the Nation's Report Card."

The students were asked to use multiple web resources, and were evaluated on "whether they could use keywords effectively in search engines, determine the credibility of a website, discern the bias of an Internet author and communicate their findings through email."

The results were students from a school in a community where the median family income was more than $100,000 demonstrated "slightly more than one extra school year's worth of online reading ability compared with students from a community where the median family income was close to $60,000."

“This is more likely a comparison between a wealthier district and a middle-class district,” said Donald Leu, leader of the study, who also said the researchers did not receive permission to study schools in the poorest communities in the state. “So the gap that we found, we would expect it to be greater if the economic differences were greater.”

Read the full story. 

Article by Kassondra Granata, EducationWorld Contributor

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