School & District Management

We’ve Never Found So Many Homeless Students Before. That’s Bad and Good

By Sarah D. Sparks — March 01, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Nearly 1.36 million children—more than all the students in New York public schools—go to school without knowing where they will sleep that night.

The number of homeless students in American public schoools rose by more than 100,000 in 2017, hitting an all-time high, finds a new report by Education Leads Home, a campaign by the nonprofit groups America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, SchoolHouse Connection, and the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. The study looked at new data reported from 26 states on the number and graduation rates of their homeless students.

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires more reporting on homeless students, their achievement, and their trajectory through school. But the rise in homeless students has not come primarily through better identification of homeless students, said Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection. Rather, causes seem to vary widely from community to community, from rapidly rising housing costs in some communities to fallout from the opioid and methamphetamines epidemic in others. She noted, though, that unaccompanied immigrant children are not counted in federal homeless figures, because they are immediately taken into custody.

Regardless of why students become homeless, schools play a central, critical role in providing support to students without a place to live, particularly for adolescents.

“Homelessness is not just not having housing. ... It goes above and beyond poverty,” Duffield said. “There’s so much that goes into homelessness, in terms of trauma around the reasons for the homelessness. If you want to improve everybody, these students have multiple risk factors.”

The report found that nationwide, only 64 percent of homeless students earn a high school diploma variation in what percentage of homeless students in each state are able to complete at least a high school diploma. That’s nearly 20 percentage points lower than the average graduation rate for all students, and nearly 14 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for students in poverty but who have stable housing. Moreover, there was wide variation among the states.

Several states and districts have dedicated graduation coaches and other mentors to help homeless students stay on track academically. Kimberly Friedman, a spokesperson for the Arkansas education department, credited the state’s district coordinators for focusing on this. “The coordinators have paid special attention to checking on [homeless students] to ensure that they are on track to graduate,” she said.

This baseline data may not tell the whole story on some states, though, Duffield warned. Some with lower graduation rates, like Oregon, have committed in recent years to identifying significantly more homeless students, she said, and their lower graduation rates may prove more accurate over time.

In interviews with Education Week below, homeless students talk about their own experiences:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Letter to the Editor School Mask Mandates: Pandemic, ‘Panicdemic,’ or Personal?
"A pandemic is based on facts. A 'panicdemic' is based on fears. Today, we have both," writes a professor.
1 min read
School & District Management How 'Vaccine Discrimination' Laws Make It Harder for Schools to Limit COVID Spread
In Montana and Ohio, the unvaccinated are a protected class, making it tough to track and contain outbreaks, school leaders say.
4 min read
Principal and District Superintendent Bonnie Lower takes the temperature of a student at Willow Creek School as the school reopened, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Willow Creek, Mont.
Bonnie Lower, a principal and district superintendent in Willow Creek, Mont., checks the temperature of a student as Willow Creek School reopened for in-person instruction in the spring.
Ryan Berry/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP
School & District Management Opinion 'Futures Thinking' Can Help Schools Plan for the Next Pandemic
Rethinking the use of time and place for teachers and students, taking risks, and having a sound family-engagement plan also would help.
17 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion The Consequence of Public-Health Officials Racing to Shutter Schools
Public-health officials' lack of concern for the risks of closing schools may shed light on Americans' reticence to embrace their directives.
5 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty