Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools

GradNation is a national campaign that aims to raise the on-time high school graduation of homeless students to 90 percent. In efforts to drive policy and the conversation around achieving that goal, today the campaign has released a report written by Civic Enterprises and Hart Research Associates called “Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools.”

The research for this report is based on hundreds of interviews and surveys given to current and formerly homeless youth, as well as the school liaisons and federally mandated state coordinators charged with supporting these youth in their education.

Of the students surveyed, key findings — among many data points covered — include that 78 percent shared that they’d experienced being homeless on more than one occasion, and 61 percent report that they were never connect with an organization for support during that time. They report having needed both “concrete supports,” such as food, clothing and housing, as well as emotional supports, as 67 percent reported feeling uncomfortable talking about their homelessness with people at school. Ultimately, 42 percent of students reported dropping out of school “at least once.”

School liaisons stressed the limited resources that challenge their ability to connect youth with the necessary services — everything from time and funding to safe physical spaces for the youth before and after school.

The passing of the Every Student Succeeds Act means that 2016-2017 will be the first year that all states and school districts will be required to report graduation rates of their homeless students. This data may contribute to what the school liaisons who were interviewed identified as necessary for change: more public awareness, and training for all school faculty and staff on ways to support and identify homeless students. Finally, interviewees emphasized the need for an easier paperwork process, in light of how frequently many homeless students must switch schools.

The report concludes that the thorough implementation of ESSA’s reporting requirements is crucial, and that schools must have the resources to support homeless students. It highlights the need to build a network of support between community organizations, schools, and homeless youth and their families. Researchers see outreach efforts to those students and families as a key part of the solution, as well as increasing efforts to address the lack of affordable housing available to these families. Finally, the report suggests shifting goals on both a community and national level around higher graduation rates and outcomes for homeless youth, armed with data. For more information on the data that GradNation has collected in the full report, click here.

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Elizabeth Green
About Elizabeth Green 39 Articles
Elizabeth Green is the community outreach and education manager for Fostering Media Connections, and a general assignment reporter for The Chronicle of Social Change.