Advocates Set New Goal to Graduate 90 Percent of Homeless Students by 2030

Yesterday, SchoolHouse Connection, the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness (ICPH), Civic Enterprises and America’s Promise Alliance launched Education Leads Home, a first-of-its-kind national campaign focused exclusively on addressing the needs of the 1.3 million homeless students enrolled in America’s public schools.

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A brief program took place at the Opening Session at SXSW EDU last night to commemorate the launch and that include 10 young scholars from around the country, who have experienced homelessness.  They will each received scholarships to attend college in the fall.

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The campaign, which seeks to focus on homeless students at every stage of academic development, set three goals for the country: young children experiencing homelessness will participate in quality early childhood programs at the same rate as their housed peers by 2026, high school students will reach a graduation rate of 90 percent by 2030, and post-secondary students will reach an attainment rate of 60 percent by 2034.

“Homelessness among students is more than just a housing problem. It impacts every aspect of a person’s life,” said Barbara Duffield, executive director, SchoolHouse Connection. “Education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty and establishing economic mobility. It’s the only way we can prevent today’s homeless children and  youth from becoming the next generation of homeless adults.”

“Students are experiencing homelessness in over 75 percent of school districts across the U.S., and those are just the ones that have been identified; this is an issue that impacts all of us from rural Texas to the suburbs of LA to New York City,” said Liz Cohen, chief of staff, ICPH.  “When we remove the barriers to educational success faced by homeless students, our data shows that they can thrive.”

According to the report Hidden in Plain Sight, students experiencing homelessness are 87 percent more likely to dropout of school than their stably housed peers.  New research states that without a high school diploma, youth are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness later in life. Furthermore, more than 95 percent of jobs created during the economic recovery have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind. More and more research supports the charge to pay closer attention to the educational needs of homeless students to help break the cycle of poverty.

“Although student homelessness is a challenging problem, we believe it is a solvable one,” said Erin Ingram, policy advisor at Civic Enterprises, and lead author of the Hidden in Plain Sight report. “Schools have a critical role to play in identifying homeless students, and connecting them and their families to the supports they need to help them regain stable housing, and stay on track to get a quality education fundamental to their success in life. These students cannot afford to miss out on the opportunity to complete the critical first step of a high school diploma due to homelessness.”

Inspired by perspectives from families and students, Education Leads Home will focus on raising awareness of the challenges faced by this population of students. The campaign will encourage high-quality learning practices aimed to eliminate disparities in access to quality early childhood programs, work toward raising high school graduation rates, and create more pathways to postsecondary attainment.  From early childhood education through college, Education Leads Home will use evidence-based strategies to improve outcomes for some of our nation’s most vulnerable students.

This year is the first time in which all states are required to track graduation rates among homeless students to meet standards set by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As ESSA is implemented, Education Leads Home will monitor states’ progress and identify and share best practices to improve students’ outcomes in communities across the country. Furthermore, this new data will allow experts and policymakers to see where improved policies and additional resources are needed to keep students on track to graduate.

“There are more than 1.3 million students homeless in America’s public schools – and even more are unseen and underserved,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO of America’s Promise. “Thanks to ESSA, we now have rules in place to help identify students’ needs, but we also have to support teachers to make sure those policies reach the students they were made to serve. That’s why this campaign is so important. By sharing promising practices, supporting schools and working across sectors, we can make sure all students have a chance to reach their full potential.”

Photo By John P Salvatore [CC0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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