Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Almost As Important As A Home: School

Every child is different and has entirely different childhoods. Experiences, interests, abilities, and family always shape what type of childhood a child has. But that being said, there is always one thing the millions of children within the United States have in common, school. Every child, by law, is required to attend school. With school children are provided a place to learn, make friends, and lay the building blocks for life. But this opportunity is not afforded to approximately one million children across the country.1 These children miss out in this life-shaping event because they are not blessed with the same fortune as the vast majority of this nation. They are homeless and are forced into a highly mobile lifestyle.

But the one million children estimate only includes children of school age, are identified as homeless and enrolled in school. This leaves out all the toddlers, children without proper identification and those not able to attend school.1 It can be argued that the root of the problem is getting these children enrolled, but that is not normally the struggle.

The struggle is for these students experiencing homelessness to maintain enrollment at one school for the entire duration of the year. The majority of the homeless students find a way into a classroom but not always the same classroom for the entire school year. They often change schools multiple times a year. But leading this nomadic style of education is not productive to their learning or their development as a person. A study of 9,915, six to seventeen year olds in 1993, showed that children with a high amount of lifetime moves were 35% more likely to repeat a grade and 77% more likely to have four or more behavioral problems. 2 Another study in 1994 of 169 children living in emergency living facilities showed that 47% of the sample scored in the 10th percentile in the Peabody Picture Test.2,4 a similar study in 1989 showed that on standardized tests only 47%, in mathematics, and 28%, in reading, scored at or above their grade level.2 All these studies showed the adverse effects of a highly mobile lifestyle has on child.

Without stable schooling it is difficult for any person to be successful in this country, because a high school diploma is necessary for most minimum wage professions. It is vital for children experiencing homelessness, at the rock bottom of poverty, to receive the schooling necessary to begin to break the cycle of poverty. Researchers have reported that multiple moves are as stressful on a child as the hospitalization or incarceration of a parent.3 Federal legislation to grant students experiencing homelessness the right to remain at their school of origin despite their current living situation through the McKinney-Vento Act. This affords homeless students an opportunity to stay at their school to receive a concurrent education but more needs to be done. To ease this stress and allow a child to be as successful as they can be, it is our responsibility to afford them this opportunity. Through organizations such as Project Connect, this can be made possible. Project Connect and Faces without Places work to keep children experiencing homelessness connected to their education by providing supplies, transportation, uniforms, and enrichment opportunities. It is not the child’s fault that they are in this position but aiding the blockage of their slippery slope not only betters their lives, but society as a whole.

1 “Facts About Homeless Education.” National Association for the Education of the Homeless Children and Youth. NAECHY. 2009. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.

2 Obradovic, Jelena, et. al. “Academic achievement of homeless and highly mobile children in an urban school district: Longitudinal evidence on risk, growth, and resilience.” Development and Psychopathology 21 (2009): 493-518. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.

3 Garriss-Hardy, Beth and Cheryl Vrooman. “School Stability and School Performance: A Review of the Literature.” National Center for Homeless Education at the Serve Center. National Center for Homeless Education, 2004. Web. 3 Oct. 2010.

4 The Peabody Picture Test is an IQ test determined by a series of questions prompted by an administrator to which the participant answers by selected one of four pictures on a given sheet.

By Jimmy Lucas

My name is Jimmy Lucas and I am a first year at the University of Cincinnati in the Chemical Engineering ACCEND program. I plan on completing school in five years with my Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering. I am involved in the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, Relay for Life, Bearcat Buddies, and Engineering Tribunal on campus. I am interested in most sports and any type of academic research.

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