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April 2016Vol. 17, No. 2The Lasting Educational Impact of Homelessness

New data point to the lasting impact of homelessness on the academic performance of students in New York City's (NYC's) public schools. A recent policy brief issued by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness notes that the number of homeless students in NYC schools increased by 64 percent since 2008, and that during the 2013–2014 school year, 11 percent of the total student population was either homeless or had experienced homelessness within the previous 3 years. The brief examines the educational outcomes of homeless and formerly homeless students and finds that these students continue having difficulties in overcoming educational challenges even after they achieve more stable housing situations.

Some key data points include the following:

  • In 2014, currently homeless students showed proficiency rates almost 20 points lower on both English and math tests than classmates with stable housing.
  • Lower performance continued for students that were currently housed but had experienced homelessness in the previous 3 school years, with only 20 percent of formerly homeless students performing at grade level or higher in math (only a 3 percentage-point improvement over currently homeless students).
  • Many students first experience housing instability when they are very young, often years before they participate in standardized testing.

The brief hypothesizes that the deficit may be the result of impaired social and emotional development caused by the trauma of being homeless, or not having learned certain critical skills in early childhood as a result of financial and social instability. Regardless of the cause, the brief suggests that focusing on homeless and formerly homeless students may provide NYC schools a crucial opportunity for designing solutions to meet their support needs and help them overcome educational deficits.

Aftershocks: The Lasting Impact of Homelessness on Student Achievement is available at (382 KB).