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Fewer Ore. homeless kids? There's a catch

By KTVZ.COM news sources
Published On: Nov 21 2013 11:34:59 AM CST
Central Oregon's homeless student ranks growing

SALEM, Ore. -

Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction Rob Saxton announced Thursday that 18,165 students in Oregon’s K-12 public schools lived in a homeless situation at some point during the 2012-13 school year. 

The number is down from the 20,370 students reported during the 2011-12 school year.  However, a shift in federal reporting requirements changed how districts tracked and reported homeless students last year which impacted this year’s numbers.
 
“As we head into the holiday season, this report is a reminder of the stark reality faced by thousands of Oregon students and their families on a daily basis,” said  Saxton. “No child should have to worry about where they are going to sleep or where their next meal is coming from, but unfortunately, far too many of our students have to do just that.

"Our schools do an incredible job of not only providing these students with the educational tools they will need in their futures but also many of the essentials such as transportation, food, and clothing to meet their immediate needs.  I would like to thank our many dedicated school staff – and in particular our homeless liaisons – who make such a huge difference in these students’ lives.  However, they can’t do this important work alone. Please join our schools in helping to combat student homelessness and its consequences and give back this holiday season.”
 
Change in Reporting Methodology Impacts Homeless Counts

Every school district in Oregon is required to have a homeless liaison to provide services, supports, and resources to homeless youth. In the past, these liaisons reported annual counts of the number of homeless students in their districts. 

Due to a change in federal reporting requirements, liaisons are now tracking and reporting data at the individual student level rather than at the district level. This means that for the first time, we can identify duplicates in our counts due to students moving between districts mid-year. 

The state-wide and county totals reported this year only count each student once, regardless of the number of districts providing services to the student during the school year. 

However, in order to accurately reflect the services and supports provided by each district, district counts include all homeless students served by the district, regardless of whether that student also received services at another district at some point in the school year.

This means that the sum of all district totals will not match the state or county totals provided.  The change in methodology also means that this year’s data is not directly comparable with previous year’s data and should be considered a new baseline.
 
Homelessness and Student Achievement

By tracking homelessness at the student level, we are now able to examine how our homeless student population is performing in school.  In the past, this was only possible for those districts receiving McKinney-Vento sub-grants as grantees tracked homelessness at the student level. 

This year’s statewide homeless achievement data reveals what the sub-grant data had indicated – that homeless students have lower levels of academic performance than their peers.  Homeless students meet state reading, math, and science expectations at much lower rates than the student population as a whole. 

However, what is possibly more striking is the difference between the results of homeless youth and other youth in poverty.  Homeless students had results well below those of their economically disadvantaged peers.  These results point to the very real impact that homelessness has on student learning and outcomes.
 
All Students     Economically Disadvantaged Students     Homeless Students
Math     63%     50%     39%
Reading     72%     59%     52%
Science     66%     53%     45%
 
“These results paint a very clear picture about the effect of housing insecurity on student learning,” said Deputy Superintendent Saxton.  “We need to come together as communities and as a state to meet our students’ fundamental needs so that they can stop worrying about the basics and get back to being kids – learning, growing, and fulfilling their potential.”
 
The ability to track student-level data allows us to not only track achievement data but also to examine demographics and other trends in student homelessness. 

For example, there are generally about twice as many homeless students reported at the 12th grade than at any other grade level. We are now able to examine the data more closely and identify that these 2,438 homeless seniors range in age from 16 to 21, indicating that many are 5th or even 6th year seniors.
 
The student-level data also allows us to explore how homelessness impacts various student populations.  This year’s data reveals that student homelessness disproportionately impacts many of our communities of color. 

Our Hispanic, Black, and Native American students are more likely than their peers to experience homelessness.  English Learners and Special Education students are also slightly more likely than their peers to experience homelessness.
 
Tracking student-level homeless data will allow us to explore trends and patterns over time including issues such as chronic homelessness. It will also allow us to examine student outcomes such as graduation and high school completion rates.  This information will be available in next year’s report and will further illuminate the impact of homelessness on Oregon students.
 
A Closer Look at the Numbers

Despite the recent dip, caused at least in part by the change in reporting methodology, student homeless rates remain high and have more than doubled in the last decade.  Statewide, 3.2% of Oregon’s K-12 students were homeless at some point during the 2012-13 school year.
 
Only 50 of Oregon’s 197 school districts reported no homeless students during the 2012-13 school year. 

Student homelessness is something that impacts both rural and urban communities in our state, and while larger districts tend to have the highest numbers of homeless students, those with the highest percentages are small, rural, and generally some distance from the I-5 corridor. 

The table below lists the ten Oregon school districts with the largest numbers of homeless students grades K-12 during the 2012-13 school year. These are the same ten districts that had the highest numbers of homelessness in the previous school year.
 
School District     Number of Homeless Students Grades K-12     Total District Enrollment     Percent of Homeless to Total Enrollment
Beaverton SD     1,373     39,488     3.48%
Portland SD     1,154     46,581     2.48%
Medford SD     993     13,187     7.53%
Eugene SD     770     17,012     4.53%
Reynolds SD     768     11,366     6.76%
Salem-Keizer SD     757     40,228     1.88%
Bend-La Pine SD     681     16,575     4.11%
Springfield SD     537     11,033     4.87%
Lincoln County SD     535     5,259     10.17%
David Douglas SD     426     10,761     3.96%
 
The table below lists the ten Oregon school districts with the highest percent of homeless students grades K-12 during the 2012-13 school year. While small school districts tend to have more volatile data, and rates of student homelessness can vary greatly from year to year, five of the districts below were in the top ten in terms of percent homeless for the 2011-12 school year as well. The five districts who had persistently high rates of homelessness are marked with an *. Rural homelessness is generally associated a lack of affordable housing.
 
School District     Number of Homeless Students Grades K-12     Total District Enrollment     Percent of Homeless to Total Enrollment
Butte Falls SD *     35     146     23.97%
Culver SD     126     699     18.03%
Dayville SD     9     60     15.00%
Marcola SD     29     195     14.87%
McKenzie SD*     31     218     14.22%
Prospect SD*     35     253     13.83%
Warrenton-Hammond SD*     119     892     13.34%
Port Orford-Langlois SD     31     260     11.92%
Mapleton SD*     20     173     11.56%
Monroe SD     48     448     10.71%
 
“Homelessness” is federally defined as lacking a fixed, regular, and/or adequate nighttime residence. A homeless family could be living in an emergency shelter or transitional housing, reside in a motel, tent, or trailer for lack of alternative, adequate housing, or share housing with another family due to loss of a home or economic hardship. 

About three-quarters of Oregon’s homeless students live in a shared housing situation.  Over 3,100 of Oregon’s 2012-13 homeless students were considered “unaccompanied minors” and lacked both a fixed place of residence and a parent or guardian.
 
The Great Recession and Homelessness

Oregon, and the rest of the country, saw an increase in student homelessness as a result of the Great Recession.  While things are starting to turn around economically, the recovery is slow and many parents who lost their jobs or homes during the economic downturn are still struggling to find work and make ends meet. 

This issue is compounded by the lack of affordable housing in many Oregon communities.  As families continue to struggle to find adequate and stable housing, school district homeless liaisons work to connect families to resources, navigate the social services system, and ensure that students have what they need to come to school ready to learn. 

But with limited resources at the school and district level, many schools rely heavily on the support and generosity of the broader community to ensure these students have what they need to be successful.
 
"I'm very moved by our community's response and foresight in this time of cuts to programs for the most vulnerable populations, specifically our children,” said Juliana Marez, homeless liaison for the Roseburg School District. “I see churches and service organizations, tribes, local youth, individuals, and neighbors mobilizing to help one another.  That is the Oregon spirit. I am very pleased to see the grassroots response to this effort and invite others to join in."
 
Federal funding to support the education of homeless students is provided through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.

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