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Homeless students lag in math, study shows

Homeless students lag in math, study shows

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Studies show that students who are homeless or move around a lot have lower math and reading skills. So, what are educators in Utah doing to help homeless students in the state?

Researchers from the University of Minnesota followed more than 26,000 students for five years. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the impact of homelessness can last for years.

Canyon School District Homeless Education Liaison Connie Crosby said, "We know every time they move, they lose about six months, academically."

Crosby says when a child starts at a new school, they have to get used to a new environment, new curriculum, new teachers and new peers. It's a tricky adjustment. So, the first priority is to get homeless students back to the school they last attended as quickly as possible.

"We hope to not have any gap in their education," Crosby said. "We know that education is the key to getting out of poverty and to keeping these children safe."

The key is transportation. Whenever possible, they provide transportation options to these students so they can keep attending the same school. These options include UTA passes, gas money, or school bus routes.

Study findings
  • Homeless and highly mobile students did not catch up to their peers during a six-year period.
  • 45 percent of the homeless or highly mobile students tested close to or above the norm.
  • Homelessness affects math more than reading because math follows a building-block approach while reading takes a more cumulative approach.
  • Study included data from 26,474 Minneapolis 3rd-8th graders from 2005-2011.
More info from news release.

If they're getting picked up at homeless shelters, they're always the first ones on and the last ones off the bus. Crosby says they want to help children avoid any stigma that comes with being homeless.

"I keep it highly confidential that they're in a shelter. Unless the family, themselves, decides to share that, we do not share that information," Crosby said.

Liaisons from all over the Wasatch Front have to work closely together so no students fall through the cracks.

"I have students at The Road Home (shelter in Murray) that attend every district. So collaborating with the other homeless liaisons helps give student the support they need," Crosby said.

If the child has to relocate to a new school, Crosby says they'll assign another student to help them assimilate to their new environment. Plus, they provide after-school programs so the child can have a safe place to work and study.

Despite a potential lag in test scores for homeless kids, Crosby says these particular students are incredibly resilient. In fact, the researchers from Minnesota even found a large portion of homeless students rate near or even above normal levels.

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Paul Nelson


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