New York education advocates are urging the City to hire dozens of new staff to help boost school attendance rates among homeless public school students which has dropped significantly already this year.
According to a new report released by Advocates for Children of New York, the average attendance rate for a public school student living in a homeless shelter was 73%, a 10 percentage point drop from the pre-pandemic rate.
The report, released Monday, found attendance rate among homeless high school students have suffered the most. Homeless public school students in the 10th grade missed on average more than one out of every three school days during the winter and spring of this year while 9th, 11th, and 12th-grade students living in shelters missed about one every four days of classes. Overall, high school students living in shelters have attendance rates far below their housed counterparts with the largest difference being among homeless and housed 10th-grade students and the smallest between housed and homeless 11th graders.
The data crunch found that homeless students in the 10th grade and 11th grade had a monthly attendance rate of 61.3% and 72.5% respectively while their housed peers had monthly attendance rates of 78.1% and 88% respectively.
During the pandemic, public school students in City homeless shelters had a much harder time accessing remote classes compared to their housed classmates. In the report, researchers from AFC overall found monthly attendance rates for students in shelters was 10.4 to 14.1 percentage points lower than their housed classmates, depending on the month.
And even though limited access to reliable internet access played a major role in shelter-residing public school students trouble logging on to online classes, the report further found that the attendance rate for public school students enrolled in blended learning, in which kids would learn remotely and in-person during the week, was only 2.3 to 4.3 percentage points higher on their in-person days than on remote learning days.
“Children get one shot at a quality education, and every day a student is absent is a day of instruction they can never get back,” said Jennifer Pringle, director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “These alarmingly low attendance rates make clear that the DOE’s current shelter-based support system is not sufficient. ” As a result, advocates are calling on the City to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to hire 150 shelter-based community coordinators to help homeless students better connect with schools and access educational supports.
The uptick in shelter-based staff is the least the City can do, advocates argue, to help nearly the sizeable number of public school students in shelters. One out of 10 New York City public school students is experiencing homelessness, according to a 2020 report from AFC, and in a system that serves roughly 1.1 million children, that amounts to over 100,000 kids who don’t know where they are going to sleep every night.
A Department of Education spokesperson claims the City is currently in the process of planning to use federal funds to expand services for students living in shelters which could include increasing staff.
“Supporting students and families affected by homelessness remains a priority for the DOE, and over the past two years, we have almost doubled the number of dedicated staff members working in school and shelters to over 300, ” said Department of Education spokesperson Nathaniel Styer. “We continue to work with partner agencies while engaging stakeholders regarding the use of federal funds.”