Data show that students experiencing homelessness have among the lowest high school graduation rates of any student population – the result of mobility, invisibility, and multiple traumas beyond the lack of housing. Failing to receive a high school diploma makes it far more likely for these students to continue to experience homelessness in the future, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and housing instability. The adverse impacts of homelessness begin in early childhood, and continue as barriers to postsecondary access and completion. As more data becomes available about homeless students’ educational participation and outcomes, it is essential that this vulnerable population is intentionally embedded in action plans and dedicated resources to increase educational opportunity and equity.
To meet this need, Education Leads Home (ELH) was launched in 2018. ELH is a national initiative coordinated by SchoolHouse Connection focused on improving educational and life outcomes for children and youth who experience homelessness. ELH’s vision is a long-term, permanent reduction in homelessness through increased educational attainment. The initiative seeks to raise awareness of key challenges and increase implementation of proven practices and policies that improve educational outcomes, from early childhood through postsecondary, for one of the country’s most vulnerable student populations.
The campaign has set three ambitious goals for supporting children and youth experiencing homelessness:
- By 2026, young children experiencing homelessness will participate in quality early childhood programs at the same rate as their housed peers.
- A 90% high school graduation rate for homeless students by 2030.
- A 60% postsecondary attainment rate for homeless students by 2034.
ELH seeks to meet these goals by supporting teams of state leaders, including state educational agency homeless coordinators, Head Start State Collaboration Offices, institutions of higher education, advocates, and homeless service providers. SchoolHouse Connection facilitates and provides support to state teams through:
- Mini-grants. During the 2020-2021 school year, the ELH initiative awarded mini-grants to 12 state teams to build the work within their state;
- Customized strategic support, including bi-monthly state team check-in calls, goal-setting, and customized action roadmaps;
- A monthly community of practice virtual session which convened all state teams and centered on real-world problems of practice and peer troubleshooting.
SHC is proud of the progress made to date by state teams, which are summarized in this document.