24 Aug 2012

Identifying students

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The first days of school tend to be the time when many students are identified as homeless and, thus, eligible for services and opportunities afforded by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Beyond this first week, however–when schools are in purposeful, systematic “identification mode,” we need to develop structures for ongoing identification of those who are going through periods of residential instability.

The McKinney-Vento Act (http://center.serve.org/nche/definition.php) includes a broad swath of students in its definition of homelessness, yet few of our schools are equipped with mechanisms for identifying them and serving them appropriately. Beyond the first days of school, students’ particular needs for transportation and supplemental support are often left unattended. Key advocates for kids in these situations can be building level “points of contact” and district-level liaisons (both of which are McKinney-Vento appointed positions), but broader, more integrated systems of practice (including multi-level actors across organizational boundaries) are needed to ensure that all kids, regardless of their housing situations, are provided with appropriate educational opportunities.

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