For many children, the end of the school year is eagerly anticipated and a time of celebration. Parents, students, and teachers look forward to several weeks of unstructured time, vacations, and relaxation.
However, for almost 30,000 of Kentucky’s schoolchildren who are experiencing homelessness, summer break means increased stress. These children lose a large sense of stability, routine, socialization with peers, and regular meals they gain through school attendance.
The causes of homelessness are complex; for children, the negative impact crosses social and academic outcomes. Nationally, the high school graduation rate for students experiencing homelessness is less than 25%; with significantly lower overall achievement scores in reading and math. In Kentucky, one-third of homeless students scored in the lowest category on end of year reading scores compared to one-fifth of the general student population.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Act provides some protection for the rights of homeless students and addresses barriers to enrollment. This includes a detailed definition of children who qualify, supportive infrastructures, and designation of a homeless education liaison for each school district who is tasked with the identification and support of these students.
Unfortunately, even with these efforts, research indicates the number of identified students is still largely under-reported. According to the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, “Homeless children and youth report that school is a home to them – a place where they see the same faces, sit in the same seat, and can put their hearts and minds into pursuits that ease their daily troubles. In school, students gain the skills and support needed to avoid poverty and homelessness as adults.”
Currently, Kentucky has one of the highest percentages of students experiencing homelessness. These children need to be located and supported to grow into successful and productive adults, both in and out of the classroom.
For more information:
Kentucky Department of Education, Education for Homeless Children and Youth – http://education.ky.gov/federal/progs/txc/Pages/default.aspx
National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth – http://www.naehcy.org
National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty – http://www.nlchp.org