Wednesday, February 15, 2012


The statistics are staggering - nearly 15 million children are living in poverty in the United States, which is close to 21% of all children. Around 1.5 million U.S. children are homeless. One-third of the homeless in MN are children.

The McKinney-Vento Act entitles homeless children to a free and appropriate education, allowing them to enroll in schools without proof of residency or other paperwork, and school districts are required to provide transportation so that highly mobile students can stay in the same school. As well, the Act requires that school districts have coordinators of homeless services, though the law is very underfunded and many school districts struggle to keep up with the increasing needs of students.

Many of you likely have homeless students in your schools, though the students and their families may not have reached out for assistance. ASCD lists some things that teachers can do to support students dealing with homelessness.
  • Be sensitive to the possibility that students in your classroom may be homeless. Given the rising costs of homes and rent, asking students to draw a picture of their room at home, for example, might not an appropriate activity for many of the students in your class. When brainstorming activities, keep it in your planning that some students may be without a home.
  • If you sense a student may be in such a situation, contact the district's homeless liaison. 
  • Be available for conversation if the student wants to confide in you, but don't force the issue. Students and their families may be reluctant to seek assistance.
  • If you assign homework requiring supplies, make sure to have some available for students that cannot secure supplies outside of school.
  • Discuss readings, stories, news items, movies, or texts that explore economic hardship, families without homes, or characters who are resilient.
  • Continue to work on creating an atmosphere of community in the classroom in which all students' feelings and situations are accepted.
The National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) advocates tailoring strategies to address three areas of unique need for highly mobile students.

Affective needs involve issues of emotional security and motivation. Teachers should:
  • Create a stable learning environment with a structured routine;
  • Assign a “buddy” to new students to introduce them to the classroom and school;
  • Handle disruptions in a private and respectful manner;
  • Make time to talk to students on a personal level;
  • If a student suddenly leaves school, have farewell letters inserted in the student’s records for forwarding to his or her new school.
Academic needs deal with teaching strategies. In seeking to meet them:
  • Create a stable learning environment with a structured routine;
  • Plan mini-lessons and units that can be completed in limited periods of time;
  • Include a variety of levels in reading materials about the same content;
  • Assess these students’ interests to hook them into learning;
  • Give students credit for partially completed work.
Technical needs include supports for students’ general well-being. In seeking to meet them:
  • Keep a supply of healthy snacks and extra school supplies;
  • Identify and connect with school and district support staff, including guidance counselors, homeless liaisons and the district’s director of special services;
  • Consider fostering a partnership with a community tutoring program.
For additional information and resources, visit NCHE’s website.[tt_news]=2315


Post a Comment