Unseen and Unsupported
homeless students attending charter schools compared to non-charter public schools
Charter schools in Los Angeles County serve a lower percentage of homeless students than non-charter public schools, but those students are more likely to be chronically absent and graduate at significantly lower rates than their counterparts in public schools, according to new research released today by the Black Male Institute at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies.
Additionally, the analysis raises concerns as to whether some charter schools are accurately identifying homeless students attending their schools and assigning adequate staff to meet their needs as required by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
“The success of public schools is often measured in part by graduation and attendance rates, even among those students
experiencing the very real challenges of homelessness,” said UCLA education professor Tyrone Howard, the director of the Black Male Institute and the Pritzker Family Endowed Chair in Education to Strengthen Families. “The same measures should be applied to the evaluation of charter schools. They need to do more and better in serving students experiencing homelessness.”
Key findings of the report include:
- In L.A. County charter schools, the five-year cohort graduation rates for charter school students experiencing homelessness is 45%, approximately 35 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for students experiencing homelessness in non-charter public schools.
- 40% of high school students experiencing homelessness in L.A. county charter schools were chronically absent and missed 18 or more instructional days in the 2018-19 school year. By comparison, the rate of chronic absenteeism for homeless students attending non-charter high schools was 30%. Moreover, one out of every two Black high school students experiencing homelessness were chronically absent. The disparities among Black students are similar in both charter and non-charter schools.
- The homeless liaison is the most important role in supporting students experiencing homelessness as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Yet in L.A. County charter schools, this role is often designated to network leadership and school administrators.
- Homelessness experts assert that typically 10% of economically disadvantaged student experience homelessness. Employing a 10% benchmark in L.A. county charter schools suggests that in 2018-2019 potentially 6,463 students experiencing homelessness may have not been identified or served.
The researchers underscore that significant racial disparities exist in student homelessness, with Black students overrepresented in the student homelessness population by 80%.
“It is important to note that Black students have the highest absentee rate and the lowest graduation rate of any other racial group of students in charter schools,” said Elianny Edwards, a researcher at the Black Male Institute.
To ensure that students experiencing homelessness are identified and supported in charter schools, the researchers say that it is critical that charter schools implement student audits twice a year, using a 10% benchmark to identify potential undercounting homeless students the also urge charter schools to designate a homeless liaison capable of fully executing the federal mandates of the position and serving as head of a larger student support team
“The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act mandates that homeless liaisons have the capacity to perform a wide
variety of responsibilities. However, a third of the schools we analyzed designated this position to their school leader—an already busy and demanding position,” concludes Earl Edwards, a researcher at the Black Male Institute. “If the homelessness liaison cannot fulfill their responsibilities, students experiencing homelessness are likely to be unidentified and underserved.”
The research brief, The Unseen and Unsupported Students in Charter Schools: An Analysis of Charter School Schools Student Homeless Populations in Los Angeles County is available at https://blackmaleinstitute.org/unseen-and-unsupported/