IDRA Report Links Lack of Broadband Access to Student Disengagement
“Plugged in, Tuned Out” Shows Problem is Worst in Large Urban School Districts
San Antonio • May 19, 2021
Since the transition to remote learning during the pandemic, schools struggle to reconnect with hundreds of thousands of students. A new IDRA study found that the problem is bigger than any school strategy. IDRA’s report, Plugged in, Tuned Out – A First Examination of Student Engagement Patterns in Texas Public Schools During COVID-19, makes clear that, in many parts of Texas, student disengagement during the pandemic was a direct result of limited broadband access.

“Remote learning during the pandemic exposed long-standing inequities that interfere with quality education,” said Celina Moreno, J.D., IDRA President & CEO. “Students can’t connect with their schools if they can’t connect to the Internet. Texas needs to solve this.”

TEA reported that more than 600,000 Texas public school students – over one in 10 students – did not complete assignments or respond to teacher outreach in spring 2020. Schools lost touch with Black students and Latino students at over twice the rate of white students.

Lawmakers are considering proposals to establish a state broadband office, set up a federal grant program for broadband funds, and create a mapping system to identify where to focus resources. To keep pace with digital needs, the state of Texas must prioritize education and ensure all students, regardless of their zip code, have access to broadband. IDRA calls for key actions to address the digital divide:

  • Adopt a state broadband plan that addresses equity concerns in schools;
  • Collect data equitably to accurately assess the digital divide;
  • Increase financial support and training resources for digital literacy programs;
  • Institute student and family engagement plans across all school districts;
  • Offer training and support to educators, students and families in digital literacy and digital citizenship; and
  • Invest in robust community engagement programs, such as ongoing community-led digital equity studies and resources for school district capacity to support students and families.

Authored by Christina Muñoz, an IDRA Education Policy Fellow, the report includes data on how student engagement patterns differed across school district sizes showing that broadband Internet access was a significant predictor of full student engagement for larger, more urban school districts.
Media contact: Christie L. Goodman, APR, IDRA Director of Communications,, 210-444-1710

See IDRA's report on the digital divide’s effects on Texas students and families and what Texas should do to secure equitable access to broadband for Texas’ most vulnerable student populations.

See our video campaign to promote digital equity and highlight community voices about how the digital divide has impacted learning and daily life for them. Students, educators and community members can record a 15-second video to shared with Texas policymakers.

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Phone: 210-444-1710
The Intercultural Development Research Association is an independent, non-profit organization. Our mission is to achieve equal educational opportunity for every child through strong public schools that prepare all students to access and succeed in college. IDRA strengthens and transforms public education by providing dynamic training; useful research, evaluation, and frameworks for action; timely policy analyses; and innovative materials and programs.
IDRA works hand-in-hand with hundreds of thousands of educators and families each year in communities and classrooms around the country. All our work rests on an unwavering commitment to creating self-renewing schools that value and promote the success of students of all backgrounds.