Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is closing the “homework gap” for 6,000 middle school students — every 6th and 7th grader in the District — through its new APS Digital Bridge Program. The program is providing students with a Windows laptop equipped with a T-Mobile 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot which connects to T-Mobile’s network to provide high-speed internet for homework and studies when Wi-Fi is not available. APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen and T-Mobile representatives launched the new initiative at a kickoff event held Feb. 8 at Brown Middle School.
The Digital Bridge Program is powered by a $1.45 million award from the T-Mobile EmpowerED Program; APS operating funds, including $3 million APS will invest this school year; and $1.5 million the District will invest next school year, thanks to the voter-supported E-SPLOST, as well as other programs and resources.
The goal of the APS program is to bridge the digital divide and ensure that students have a seamless experience with digital resources and 21st century learning from school to home. APS has invested in a suite of digital tools to assist students with learning in all academic subjects as well as support for learning after school through online tutoring assistance.
“Our APS Digital Bridge Program is equipping our middle school students with the tools they need to succeed both in school and at home where the learning continues by providing them with high-quality laptops and a high-speed internet connection,” said Dr. Carstarphen. “This initiative comes at a time when technology is integral to our students’ success, and we are so thankful to T-Mobile and our other partners for investing in APS and in the tremendous potential that each of our students represents.”
According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, one-fifth of adults who lived in households with annual incomes less than $30,000 were “smartphone-only” internet users – meaning they own a smartphone but do not have broadband internet or a device at home. In APS, 75.7 percent of all students meet the federal poverty guidelines and are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
T-Mobile’s EmpowerED initiative is aimed at bridging the “homework gap” – the uneven playing field that exists when millions of low-income students are unable to access the digital tools necessary to succeed inside and outside of the classroom.
“T-Mobile believes every child deserves the tools they need to be successful in today’s fast-paced, digital world, and our EmpowerED program furthers this goal of helping the next generation reach their full potential,” said David Bezzant, senior director, Public Sector at T-Mobile. “Atlanta Public Schools is going all-out for their students with an incredible suite of tools and resources available on devices through their Digital Bridge program – a best-in-class execution of what the T-Mobile EmpowerED program can truly offer.”
In addition to T-Mobile, APS has enlisted other partners including Lenovo, Tutor.Com, Prosys, and Microsoft to provide a suite of digital resources for students.