PreK-12

Education is a critical strategy both for addressing child and youth homelessness and for preventing it from re-occurring in the future. In today’s economy, completing high school is a bare minimum for obtaining a job that pays enough to afford safe, stable housing. High school graduation is also linked to many other important indicators of health and well-being.

We’ve carefully compiled resources on federal PreK-12 law and policy, including tools, innovative practices, and the latest research. Stay in touch with us to learn about new resources as we produce and collect them.

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How to Contact your McKinney-Vento Liaison

Under the McKinney-Vento Act, every local educational agency is required to designate a liaison for homeless children and youth. The local educational agency liaison coordinates services to ensure that homeless children and youths enroll in school and have the opportunity to succeed academically.

Click HERE to find the contact information of your local homeless education liaison.

Note: This contact information may change frequently due to staff turnover. If you have problems finding the right school district homeless liaison, please contact your state homeless education coordinator.

  • Five Strategies to Help Homeless Youth Transition to College During COVID-19
    The COVID-19 crisis requires McKinney-Vento liaisons and other educators to think creatively about how to carry out their responsibilities to help youth experiencing homelessness transition to higher education. This resource lays out five strategies to help keep the dream of a postsecondary education alive for youth experiencing homelessness, during and beyond these troubled times.
  • SHC Launches Public Awareness Effort to Reach Homeless Families and Youth
    Schools are required by law to identify, enroll, and serve homeless children and youth, but distance learning and other COVID-related complications have made this harder. Without the usual methods of outreach and identification, many families and youth experiencing homelessness may be even more disconnected from school and early childhood programs. To help inform families and youth about their educational rights, SchoolHouse Connection announces two public service announcements (PSA) aimed at reaching families, educators, community organizations, and local leaders:
    • A PSA from Sesame Street Workshop with a message from Elmo for parents and children experiencing homelessness.
    • A PSA aimed at educators and community members to engage them in efforts to identify and assist families and youth experiencing homelessness.
  • Removing Barriers to Online Enrollment for Students Experiencing Homelessness
    This checklist outlines some of the most common barriers to online enrollment for students experiencing homelessness and provides strategies for addressing them. Using this checklist to assess and remove barriers will help ensure students experiencing homelessness can have immediate and equitable access to school.
  • Awarding and Accepting Partial Credits for Students Experiencing Homelessness
    Students experiencing homelessness face many challenges to accruing credits and staying on track for graduation. The result of these challenges is that only 67.8% of students experiencing homelessness graduate high school on time, well below the national average of 85.3% and their low-income peers at 79.5%. The McKinney-Vento Act requires state and local educational agencies to address these barriers, and many states also have laws requiring the award of partial credits to students experiencing homelessness, those in foster care, and other students. Helping students graduate from high school also help prevent future homelessness, as the greatest single risk factor for young adult homelessness is the lack of a high school degree. Developed in partnership with a school counselor, SchoolHouse Connection’s new checklist is designed to help school counselors and registrars calculate, award, and receive partial credits, leading to increased high school graduation and decreased homelessness for youth.
  • 6 Things to Know About Privacy, FERPA, and Homelessness
    This issue brief explains what educational information pertaining to homeless students can be shared, with whom, and under what circumstances, consistent with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the McKinney-Vento Act.
  • Supporting the Attendance of Students Experiencing Homelessness
    Children and youth experiencing homelessness are chronically absent from school at a rate at least twice that of the overall student population, and significantly more often than their housed, low-income peers. The mobility, poverty, and trauma associated with homelessness affects students’ emotional and physical health, hygiene, preparedness for school, transportation options, and other factors that increase absenteeism. Chronic absences increase the likelihood that a student will drop out of high school, which can perpetuate child and youth homelessness. This brief shares strategies that schools, districts, and communities are implementing to help ensure that students experiencing homelessness are in school, every day.
  • Editable “Know Your Rights” Flyers
    “Know Your Rights” flyers can help get the word out about the rights of students experiencing homelessness, while also helping parents and youth understand how sharing their situation can increase access to and stability in school. We’ve created simple flyers for parents and for unaccompanied youth that can be edited for specific communities. We invite you to download and insert your logo, website, and local contact information.
  • Interview Checklists for Supporting School Selection
    These interview checklists are designed to facilitate open conversations about the school that is in a student’s best interest to attend, emphasizing the importance of parents and youth being fully informed and carefully considering the benefits of school stability prior to changing schools. We created two interview templates, one for parents and one for unaccompanied youth.
  • Back-to-School Training Resources
    Training school staff is essential in order for children and youth experiencing homelessness to be identified, and to receive the educational protections and services to which they are entitled. In response to many requests, we are pleased to offer these resources designed for liaisons to use when training school staff – for example, teachers, bus drivers, and principals.
  • Definition and Signs of Homelessness
    What is the definition of homelessness for schools, and what are some common signs of homelessness? This resource covers both topics.
  • Tips for Teachers & Staff: How to Support Students Experiencing Homelessness
    For many students experiencing homelessness, school is the only place of stability in their lives. Teachers play a crucial role in creating a classroom environment that is safe and supportive for all students, especially those who are highly mobile and have experienced the trauma that often accompanies homelessness. Here, we provide information and strategies that teachers and support staff can use to support the educational success of students experiencing homelessness.
  • Positive School Discipline Practices for Students Experiencing Homelessness
    This document provides a brief overview of school discipline, shares research on the discipline of students experiencing homelessness, and offers tips for implementing positive school discipline for students experiencing homelessness. It also shares stories and suggestions from SchoolHouse Connection Young Leaders who experienced homelessness.
  • Early Care and Education Advocacy: A Tip Sheet for Housing and Homeless Assistance Providers
    This short document provides basic information to help housing and homeless assistance providers advocate with their families and youth for appropriate educational services, from birth through higher education. The rights and protections outlined here apply to all children and youth experiencing homelessness, as defined by the education subtitle of the McKinney-Vento Act.
  • Pathways to Partnership: Higher Education
    This second “Pathways to Partnership” series is designed to help LEA homeless liaisons and homeless service providers to 1) gain a basic understanding of some important higher education programs, including those programs that have specific requirements on homelessness; and 2) create and sustain higher education partnerships. Connecting youth and young adults who experience homelessness with the appropriate resources will help pave a smoother transition to and through postsecondary education.
  • Deeper Dives for Schools: Practical Strategies to Serve Young Children Experiencing Homelessness
    This new document series, Deeper Dives for Schools, is created in partnership with David Douglas School District in Oregon. It is designed to provide school and district staff with practical strategies to serve young children experiencing homelessness. Each one-page tip sheet shares strategies on a different aspect of access.
  • A Closer Look at ESSA, Title I Part A, and Students Experiencing Homelessness
    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) created important new requirements and opportunities for serving children and youth experiencing homelessness through Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The ESSA amendments to Title I Part A go into effect in the 2017-2018 school year. Learn what’s new, including a sample needs assessment and new summaries.
  • Quick Guide for Counseling Staff Working with Students Experiencing Homelessness
    School counselors provide important support to students experiencing homelessness. The Every Student Succeeds Act recognized this role by adding requirements that counselors advise students experiencing homelessness and improve their readiness for college. This quick guide, written by a school counselor, provides practical tips and strategies for supporting students experiencing homelessness, helping meet their basic needs, and planning for graduation.
  • Pathways to Partnership: Early Childhood Education
    Quality early childhood programs can change the trajectory of a child’s health and well-being, and help families experiencing homelessness regain stability. Local educational agency (LEA) McKinney-Vento liaisons and homeless service providers funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) are required by law to connect families experiencing homelessness to early childhood programs. The first in a new SHC series, this guide is designed to help LEA liaisons and homeless service providers develop a basic understanding of, and build partnerships with, five key early childhood programs.
  • Transportation for Students in Foster Care: A Legal and Practical Reference Tool
    Students in foster care move frequently. They move when they are first brought into care, and caseworkers may change children’s placements multiple times over their time in care. However, students in foster care should not have to change schools every time their foster placement is changed. This two-page brief reviews requirements for child welfare agencies and educational agencies; provides considerations for developing foster care transportation procedures; and includes links to sample transportation guidelines and procedures.
  • Immigrant Students: How Schools Can Help (Updated and Translated Brief)
    Federal rules on immigrant youth and families are changing rapidly. Our regularly updated brief provides basic information about eligibility for education services, and practical suggestions for schools.
  • McKinney-Vento Website Tool
    The McKinney-Vento Act as amended by ESSA requires school district liaisons to ensure that public notice of educational rights is disseminated in “locations frequented by parents, guardians, and unaccompanied youth,” in a “manner and form understandable to them.” Today, many families and youth get information from the internet. This makes it important for school district websites to contain information about the McKinney-Vento Act. Is your school district’s website a McKinney-Vento tool? We’ve created a simple guide to help.
  • Supporting Children and Youth Displaced by Disasters
    A brief summarizes five key policies and provides quick tips for their implementation.
  • LEA Liaison Self-Assessment Tool
    Of all of the amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act made by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the new requirement for local educational agency (LEA) liaisons to be “able to carry out” ten specific duties in the law has the potential to have the greatest impact on children and youth who are experiencing homelessness. We developed a simple tool to help LEAs quickly identify and prioritize areas where greater capacity is needed to carry out the law.
  • Making the Case series. This series will share real students’ situations and walk through making the legal case for providing the support the student needs.
  • Preschool to Prevent Homelessness: Research, Rights, and Resources
    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended the McKinney-Vento Act in several important ways to increase access to preschool programs. This page contains frequent questions and answers about preschool and homelessness, and links to resources to help implement the new policies.
  • ESSA PowerPoint template. All are welcome to download, edit and use this template, which includes the latest guidance from the U.S. Department of Education, new research, a pop quiz, an interactive exercise, sound clips from youth, and new resources.
  • Introduction to ESSA and Homelessness: Powerpoint from ICPH Conference
    SchoolHouse Connection teamed up with National Center on Homeless Education (NCHE) for a primer on ESSA and homelessness at the 2018 Beyond Housing conference, hosted by the Institute for Children, Poverty, & Homelessness (ICPH). Check out the PowerPoint from that session, which can be downloaded and used in your own trainings. ICPH has made all of the conference session materials available here.
  • Preschool flow chart
    The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amended the McKinney-Vento Act to include preschools specifically within the definition of “school of origin. To determine whether a particular early childhood education program is a “preschool” under ESSA, a helpful reference is the definition ED uses for McKinney-Vento data collection. This flow chart provides a guide to that definition.
  • Guidelines for Designating LEA-Level and Building-Level McKinney-Vento Liaisons
    Designating school building-level McKinney-Vento contacts can be a highly effective best practice for identifying children and youth who are experiencing homelessness, and ensuring full implementation of the McKinney-Vento Act. However, sometimes roles can become muddled. These guidelines were created in response to a request from a State McKinney-Vento Coordinator who confronted challenges clarifying lines of authority and responsibility in school districts that designate school building-level McKinney-Vento contacts (in addition to the required designation of the school district McKinney-Vento liaison). The guidelines are designed to share the relevant laws. and provide a procedure to help maintain clear roles and responsibilities.
  • Full Participation in Extra-Curricular Activities for Students Experiencing Homelessness
    Research shows the importance of participation in activity programs in increasing high school graduation and later success in life, particularly for disadvantaged students. Yet homelessness creates significant barriers to participation in athletics and other extra-curricular activities. The ESSA amendments to the McKinney-Vento Act include new policies to remove barriers to participation in extra-curricular activities. This brief, the first in SHC’s “Getting to Graduation” series, explains the new requirements and provides examples of policies to help implement them. In addition, this editable template for school districts (Microsoft Word download) can be used to provide athletic directors and associations with determinations of a youth’s homeless status (or foster care status).

Partner resources:

1. The National Center for Homeless Education is the U.S. Department of Education’s technical assistance center.  Below are some quick links to essential pages:

2. Established in October 2004 and administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Office of Safe and Healthy Students (OSHS), the REMS TA Center provides a hub of information, resources, training, and services in the field of school and higher ed emergency operations planning.

3. We receive many PreK-12 questions from educators, service providers, and advocates. We’ll be highlighting questions and our answers on our From Our In-Box page. We also authored many comprehensive ESSA tools for NAEHCY. You can find those tools, including materials to assist with training and implementation, here.

Federal Law

The federal McKinney-Vento Act requires states and school districts to remove barriers to the identification, enrollment, stability, and success of children and youth experiencing homelessness. In addition, Title I Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other laws and policies contain specific provisions on homelessness.

State Law

Youth Risk Behavior Survey – Research, Practice, and Advocacy Tools

  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. Since 2017, the YRBS optional question list has included two questions pertaining to homelessness. Researchers, educators, and advocates have used the data from these questions to guide their work, expose severely disproportionate health risks of high school students experiencing homelessness, and advocate for better policies and practices. This webpage seeks to compile YRBS research, practice and advocacy tools in one place, to provide convenient access to those who wish to understand what the YRBS reveals about students experiencing homelessness, and how to use this information in their own work. If you have tools to add to this webpage, please contact Patricia Julianelle. We will update this page as we learn of new information to share.

Student Homelessness: Lessons from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)

  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. For the first time since the survey has been widely administered, the 2017 YRBS optional question list included two questions pertaining to homelessness. SchoolHouse Connection analyzed demographic and risk factor data from the YRBS in 17 states[i], comparing high school students experiencing homelessness and those not experiencing homelessness. This series shares the striking and heartbreaking results of that analysis, with tangible action steps schools can take to promote safety and health for students experiencing homelessness.

Risk and Resilience: Differences in Risk Factors and Health Outcomes Between Homeless and Non-Homeless Students in 2017 YRBS Data

  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was first developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 1990 to assess the health risk behaviors of youth and adults in the United States. For the first time since the survey has been widely administered, the 2017 YRBS optional question list included two questions pertaining to homelessness. Using this YRBS data from 17 states (Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin), we conducted an analysis of differences in seven self-reported risk factors and health outcomes between high school students experiencing homelessness and those not experiencing homelessness. The results were striking and heartbreaking.

Resolution on Students Experiencing Homelessness, of the School Social Work Association of America. The School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) believes that the supports, requirements, and best practices within ESSA are crucial to improving educational outcomes for students experiencing homelessness. SSWAA believes that more must be done to ensure compliance and hold states, districts, and schools accountable for implementing the requirements under MVA and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Additionally, there should be an increase in funding so that the rights of students experiencing homelessness can be adequately implemented.

Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Schools. This ground-breaking report, authored by Civic Enterprises and released by America’s Promise, is based on surveys of youth who have experienced homelessness, McKinney-Vento school district liaisons, and McKinney-Vento state coordinators. The website includes an excellent digital media toolkit with infographics that can be used in social media and other awareness-raising efforts.

Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. ICPH has produced many important analyses and reports on children and youth experiencing homelessness, including state-specific reports.

NCHE’s Federal Data Summaries. NCHE produces federal data summaries on PreK-12 children and youth experiencing homelessness, from SY2006 to SY2014.

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