Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Closing the Gap for Urban Families

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

Closing the Gap for Urban Families

Article excerpt

When offered education, urban families are willing to bridge the digital divide.

The East Tremont section of the Bronx has a special kind of energy, accentuated by the rhythm of traffic skirting potholes along Tremont Avenue. Much of that energy emanates from Community School 211. Perched on a hill just off the main drag, surrounded by tenements and the odd empty lot, the school pulses with light and activity, even at 7 p.m. on a weeknight at the torpid end of summer. It serves students in grades K-8, including a health profession summer program in which elementary students role play as emergency room doctors.

One night, the action extended beyond 7 p.m. in the auditorium, where a couple dozen parents came to learn about the Internet and what it can do for their children's education. No one spending time in that room can claim the urban digital divide is born of apathy.

CAUSES OF THE DIVIDE Income is a factor. About one in four urban families with incomes of less than $25,000 have home computers, compared with more than 42 percent of urban families at all income levels, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce's 1999 Falling Through the Net report. And 25 percent to 33 percent of inner-city families who have computers don't use the Internet because of the service's cost. The crowd at CS 211 bore that out. Only two of the families in the crowd had computers at home, and neither of them had an ISP. Discrepancies exist among races, also. A child in a low-income white family is three times as likely to have Internet access as a child in a comparable African-American family, and four times as likely as a child in a comparable Hispanic family, according to the commerce report. But given the recent upsurge in Internet use by Hispanics across the country, these numbers have likely shifted in a positive direction.

Sometimes the two trends combine in troubling ways. Twenty-two percent of African-American families and 23 percent of Hispanic families in all income levels with home computers say Internet service is too costly.

EDUCATION BRINGS CHANGE But the mostly Hispanic parents of East Tremont aren't about to let demographics get the best of them. They want to understand how to connect to the Net and how to put it to work on behalf of their kids. …

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