Charter Schools and Students Experiencing Homelessness: Practices and Recommendations for Success


There are approximately 1.5 million K-12 students and an additional 1.4 million children under the age of six experiencing homelessness across the United States. While many of these students attend traditional public schools, a growing number, at least 60,000, are enrolled in charter schools. Charter schools are independently-operated public schools that have additional flexibility to design classrooms that meet their students’ academic and other needs. All charter schools operate under a contract with a charter school authorizer – usually a nonprofit organization, government agency, or university – that holds them accountable to the high standards outlined in their “charter.” 

The purpose of this report is to begin to paint a clearer picture of the experiences and outcomes of students experiencing homelessness enrolled in charter schools. In this document, we offer basic information about the McKinney-Vento Act, case studies highlighting best practices across charter schools and networks, and key questions for charter school educators, administrators, authorizers, support staff, advocates, and others. We hope charter schools and partners will use this document as a starting point for conversations and action within your schools, networks, communities, and states.

Table of Contents:

I: Introduction 
II: The McKinney-Vento Act: The Federal Blueprint for Educational Equity for Students Experiencing Homelessness
III: The Impact of COVID-19
IV: Case Studies: Charter Schools Serving Students Experiencing Homelessness

V: Takeaways and Recommendations

Key Takeaways and Recommendations

The recommendations below are intended for charter school operators, administrators, staff, and others to implement the McKinney-Vento Act fully and to improve the educational opportunities and experiences of students experiencing homelessness.

Identification, Immediate Enrollment, and Retention:

Trauma-Informed Practice

Supporting Students and Families, In School and Out of School

Analysis of Disaggregated Data