NCES Spotlight: Homeless Children & Youth

When thinking about educational equity, one group of underserved students that often gets overlooked is homeless children and youth. Children experiencing homelessness face an array of daily challenges from access to reliable transportation and internet to health and safety concerns that make achieving educational success extremely difficult. The National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) 2017 Condition of Education (COE) report takes an in-depth look into the data on homeless children and youth in the U.S. By doing so, the report brings much needed awareness to the numbers of students experiencing homelessness in the U.S. and the obstacles they must overcome to achieve educational success.

The latest report notes that 1.3 million public school students (2.5 percent) were reported as homeless in 2014-15. This is an increase from the 1.8 percent of public school students reported as homeless in 2009-10. Though, as the report points out, this increase may, in part, be attributed to improved reporting practices. Of the students reported as homeless in the U.S., 17 percent are also identified as having a disability and 14 percent are also identified as being an English language learner. Most students identified as homeless in the report were in the lower elementary grade levels.


*National Center for Education Statistics 2017 Condition of Education Report

The percentage of students the 2017 COE report identified as homeless varied by state and school district. Respectively, .6 percent of public school students in Connecticut were identified as homeless, 4.4 percent of public school students in Washington, D.C. experienced homelessness.


*National Center for Education Statistics 2017 Condition of Education Report

More so, school districts in cities (3.7%) and towns (2.6%) had higher percentages of students identified as homeless than rural (2.4%) and suburban (2.0%) school districts.

The Mckinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires public school districts to identify homeless students and their characteristics and to annually report this data to the U.S. Department of Education. Congress renewed this requirement in 2015 when it passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Access to accurate and high quality data for all students, and particularly for underserved learners, is important and necessary to ACT’s mission of education and workplace success for all. Data like these not only help provide a more accurate picture of the U.S. education system, but can help identify solutions to overcoming achievement and attainment gaps and realizing educational equity, ensuring that those who are in greatest need receive the supports necessary for success.