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ESSA Will Require Schools to Report Homeless Student Graduation Rates for First Time Ever

ESSA Will Require Schools to Report Homeless Student Graduation Rates for First Time Ever

As the homeless student population grows year after year, support services to this subset of challenged youth have not grown to keep up.

The new education legislation to go into effect in August will, for the first time, hold schools responsible for reporting graduation rates of homeless students beginning next school year.

While most of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s provisions will not go into effect until the 2017-2018 school year, including homeless youth into data reporting will begin immediately next year with the ESSA’s update to the McKinney-Vento Act.

The McKinney-Vento Act has been in effect for thirty years to guarantee that homeless students are afforded the same educational opportunities as other students despite obvious challenges to consistent learning.

Before the new update under ESSA, only five states currently require schools to report data on homeless students.

A new report from Civic Enterprises called Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools casts a light on how despite federal laws in place to require states to employ state coordinators and local districts liaisons to help homeless youth, implementation is largely ineffective on a national level.

For instance, 34 percent of liaisons reported being the only person in the entire school district trained to "identify and intervene with homeless youth and families.”

From a homeless youth perspective, six in 10 students said that their school did only a fair or poor job with providing them with the tools they needed to succeed and stay in school.

The report makes several recommendations for how schools can use new ESSA guidelines to offer better support to homeless youth.

For one, it recommends that all staff- not just liaisons- receive support to identify and help homeless youth.

“From your bus driver, to your crossing guard, to your cook, to your custodian: I think everybody needs to be involved,” said one local liaison in the report.

It also recommends that schools work to better inform homeless students and families of their rights, proactively to help students stay in school, actively connect homeless students to outside support services, and establish warning systems to ultimately prevent homelessness.

Homeless students, especially those who have struggled with homelessness from an early age, face significant challenges to learning that schools must be equipped to deal with in order to turn challenges into learning opportunities.

Read the full report here.

Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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