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decades, school districts continue to learn new methods about how to im- plement it efficiently, including analyzing data. For example, in Nashville, Tennessee, the school district analyzed atten- dance data at the end of the 2017-2018 school year and found the climbing rate of chronic absenteeism among students experiencing homeless was more than double the rate of housed students. Transportation was the most commonly cited barrier to regular attendance. In response, the district used Title I Part A to hire one staff person to oversee transportation arrangements for McKinney-Vento students. The result was a 7.2 percent decrease in chronic absenteeism of these students at the end of the following year, which persuaded the district to continue a part-time position in the transportation department to continue reducing absences related to transportation. One particular challenge revealed by the recent federal data report is the


decrease in the number of children and youth who are staying in shelters or transitional housing, compared to the large increases in all the other catego- ries of homeless living situations (motel, staying with others, unsheltered). Children and youth who are staying in more hidden homeless situations


are particularly hard to identify and are more mobile. Transporters are in a unique position to help to identify these children and youth by observing and listening to children who talk about staying with others, ask to be let off at different locations, or whose behavior otherwise indicate potential home- lessness. Communicating with district or liaison-based staff who can follow up is important to help ensure appropriate identification and services. Some children and youth experiencing homelessness require special


considerations. The definition of school of origin was amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 to include preschools, extending school stability to younger learners, who may find themselves shut out of any early learning if they move to a school district with no preschool opportunities, or where such opportunities are full. Ensuring safe and efficient transportation for preschool children experiencing homelessness requires collaboration and creativity. Research shows the importance of participation in activity programs in


increasing high school graduation rates and later success in life, particularly for disadvantaged students. Yet homelessness also creates significant barri- ers to participation in athletics and other extracurricular activities. Guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education states that “to the extent that lack of access to transportation is a barrier to extracurricular activities for a particular student, an LEA would be required to provide this student with transportation to or from extracurricular activities.” Transporters can work with school district homeless liaisons, student


activity organizations and others to devise effective ways to ensure that stu- dents experiencing homelessness can participate fully in school activities. Finally, the increased need for transportation for children and youth experi- encing homelessness poses financial challenges for school districts. Congress has increased funding for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth program each of the last four fiscal years, for a combined increase of 32 percent, totaling $101.5 million. In addition, ESSA provided school districts with greater flexibility to use Title I Part A funds, including funds reserved for homeless students, to defray the costs of transportation. ●


Barbara Duffield is the executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a national non-profit organization that works to overcome homelessness through education. She is a former director of education for the National Coalition for the Homeless and directed policy and programs at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.


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