Family homelessness is an increasingly prevalent problem that detracts from a student’s ability to develop and learn the skills needed to graduate high school. One in 45 children, or 1.6 million children, are homeless in the U.S. every year, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness (The National Center). Family homeless may be caused by a variety of factors, including lack of affordable housing, domestic violence, poverty, decreasing government supports, the challenges of raising children alone, or lack of social supports. Children are hit particularly hard, and the constant stream of stressful experiences affects their ability to learn and thrive. According to the National Center:
- Many homeless students lack the basic school supplies and a comfortable environment in which to do homework.
- Violence can often play a significant role in the lives of homeless students; almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families. Children who witness violence are more likely than those who have not to exhibit antisocial behavior, higher levels of depression and anxiety, and turn to using violence themselves to resolve conflict.
- Homeless high school students can experience significant educational disruption, and only 11.4% are proficient in math and 14.6% are proficient in reading compared to their peers.
- Homeless students are twice as likely as non-homeless students to have to repeat a grade, be expelled, get suspended, or drop out of high school.
As stakeholders look at their student data to determine which students may be at-risk for high school dropout, it is important to consider social indicators, like family and student homelessness, alongside academic indicators (e.g., GPA, course credits). Social indicators are among the red flags that a student may be at risk for dropping out, especially when combined with other signs, such as repeating a grade and/or changing schools. Education stakeholders should take steps to understand the entire context of a potential dropout’s situation so they can help provide the right strategies to get them back on-track for success.
Learn more about the National Center on Family Homelessness, and the characteristics and needs of families experiencing homelessness.
Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.