California Educator

August 2015

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Page 49 of 63

V E R Y L I K E L Y , you know a homeless student. You might not think he or she is homeless — until you notice they wear the same clothes every day, or are constantly tired or hungry, or suddenly fall behind in their studies. Educators likely know a homeless student because their numbers keep climbing. Currently in California, there are 310,000 homeless students — the largest population in the nation and almost 5 percent of the state's total public school enrollment. (Federal statistics show that nationwide, about 1.36 million homeless students are enrolled in school.) Homeless students are defined by the federal government as those who "lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence." This includes students living in motels or hotels, doubling up with other families or living in shelters. They are found all across California. According to KidsData, the counties with the highest percentage of homeless students are Santa Barbara (13.6 percent of public school enrollees), Trinity (10.8), Lake (10.7), Monterey (9.6), Nevada (9.6), Sierra (9.5), San Bernardino (9.0), Plumas (8.3), San Luis Obispo (8.0), and Santa Cruz (6.8). Los Angeles County has the most homeless students (67,301 in 2014), followed by San Bernardino (36,886). PLANS TO MEET NEEDS Educators need to be adept at identifying homeless students to help make sure they and their families get access to assistance, as well as to help improve their academic performance (see sidebars). And now under a new law, California school districts must spe- cifically address how they will help homeless students in their Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAPs). The law, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June, requires districts to outline specific ways they will meet homeless students' needs and set goals such as increasing students' proficiency on state tests. The federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act already mandates that test scores for home- less students be collected, but there is no requirement for school districts to do anything with the scores. Califor- nia's new law requires schools with at least 15 homeless students to report out their test scores as a "subgroup," as they currently do with English learners, low-income students and foster youth. "Most homeless students qualify as low-income," says Shahera Hyatt, project director of the California Homeless Youth Project and author of a 2014 report that recommended homeless students be explicitly included in LCAPs. She notes that homeless students face specific obstacles that not all low-income students do — including unstable homes, lack of food, and transportation problems By Katharine Fong Photo by Scott Buschman Educators, districts step up efforts for growing numbers Help for Homeless Students Signs that a student may be homeless The student is: • Suddenly falling behind in school. • Coming to school fatigued, hungry, or wearing the same clothes. • Hoarding belongings. • Having uncharacteristic discipline problems. Source: National Center for Homeless Education 48 Learning

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