How the Digital Divide Hurts Students’ Grades


Jasmine Labat looks at handwritten homework with Kaya Laforte

by Anthony Beron

Jasmine Labat, 14, is getting frustrated with crafting a lede for her journalism class. She writes  with assurance, then hesitates, grabs the eraser, wipes it out, and starts again.  The writing exercise, expected to take 5 minutes, drags out to more than 20 minutes.

Labat, a freshman, is a student who tries to strive for a high grade-point-average (GPA), but with such an expensive obstacle in the way of much of her work’s completion, the idea of reaching a three-point-zero GPA becomes nearly impalpable.

“When I am supposed to type a paper at home, I really can’t because I don’t have a computer,” said Labat, a freshman.  Handicapped by the lack of a computer, she was recently unable to complete a 750-point, typed personal essay for her life skills class.

“It just takes way too long; I gave up,” she said.

“Without one, doing work that is assigned to be completed on a computer becomes way too frustrating and complicated.  If I did have one I would probably have at least a three-point-zero (GPA).  Now, I only have around a two-point-zero.”

She is not the only student to suffer. “The students here who don’t have access to a computer have a GPA around one point lower than that of what they would have if they had one,” said Ilalo Kalika, Student Program for Athletic and Academic Transitioning (SPAAT) after-school tutor.

The same perennial obstruction is faced by students who are enrolled in the school’s credit makeup program,, and McClymonds’ relatively new, two-year-old typing class, structured around’s curriculum and software.  Apexvs is a website that is meant to provide course supplements and substitutions for those who lack high school credits or are behind in course material.

Luckie Lovette, a senior, recalls having to come to school an hour early each day when he was enrolled in apexvs to complete online classwork.

“I had to get here hecka early just to do stuff [that] I could’ve done at home the night before with my computer, if only I had one,” said Lovette. “It made it hard logistically because I had to form a personal schedule with an added hour in the mornings.”

Angelo Garrett, a freshman, does not have access to the internet at home either.  Garrett is new to McClymonds High, as well as to typing, and says that he would have a GPA of at least three-point-eight if he were able to access more often.

“It lowers my grade in Computer Skills class.  If I had a computer with internet, my grade would be a lot better, and staying on top of everything [wouldn’t] be as difficult.  I have to circumvent my lack of internet anyway I can, even if that means getting here at around 7:20 A.M. each day to use the school’s computers, which I do.”

Like Labat, Lovette and Garrett, many other students at McClymonds High School experience the ramifications from the digital divide here.

“At least 30 percent of the students here don’t have computers at their homes, and roughly the same percent don’t have access to internet at home,” said McClymonds’ SPAAT coordinator Harold Pearson.

5 responses to “How the Digital Divide Hurts Students’ Grades

  1. Interesting article! I like the site; a lot of cool ideas and stories on here (this is Eli, I believe I met you at Splash and said I would spam…)

  2. Hello, I work for Oakland Technology Exchange West, a nonprofit located in West Oakland dedicated to closing the digital divide in Oakland. We refurbish Windows 7 desktop computers donated by local companies and offer them for free to any Oakland middle or high school student who takes our three-hour training class, in which we go over what’s on our computers and how to use them (we also provide most of the computers for McClymonds’s computer labs). There is a flier for our program in the McClymonds office, and we’re planning to have a special class for students at McClymonds in the near future.

    Any interested student or parent can learn more at our website,, or call us at 510-893-4822.

  3. Greetings. I read this posting with interest. Were you able to take advantage of the Oakland Technology Exchange discussed by Kevin in the post preceding? Is there anything I can do to help?

    Terris McMahan Grimes
    Class of ’67
    Author of:
    Smelling Herself: A Novel
    Somebody Else’s Child
    Blood Will Tell

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