Liv Ames for EdSource Today

School districts must spell out how they will help the state’s 310,000 homeless students and make goals for their progress under a new law that may be the first of its kind nationwide.

Gov. Jerry Brown approved the change to California’s accountability system last month when he signed the catch-all “trailer bill” that enacts the state budget details into law, but also includes issues not addressed in other bills.

Homeless students now must be included specifically in school districts’ Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs, to show how their needs are being met. Districts then must track test scores and other measures of progress, which the state will also monitor.

One national advocate for homeless student issues said California is the first state she knows of where homeless students are designated in accountability systems.

“California is definitely leading the states,” said Barbara Duffield, director of policy and programs for the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

The California Homeless Youth Project specifically called for this change in its September 2014 report, California’s Homeless Students: A Growing Population. The study found that California has the largest homeless student population in the country, about 4 percent of the state’s students, and twice the rate as the national average.

“It could be potentially really huge, life changing, for these students,” said Shahera Hyatt, the project’s director.

Homeless students, as defined by the federal government, are those who “lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence.” The definition includes students living in motels or hotels, doubling up with other families or living in shelters.

The numbers are increasing, according to federal statistics: In 2013-14, there were 50,344 more California homeless students than in 2012-13, when there were 259,656 such students. Nationwide, about 1.36 million homeless students were enrolled in schools.

Test scores for homeless students already are being collected under a federal law called the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act. But there are no specific requirements for school districts to do anything with those scores, so districts likely vary widely on how they address homeless students’ achievement, said Leanne Wheeler, the state’s homeless coordinator at the California Department of Education.

But the new state law will require all schools with at least 15 homeless students to have their test scores reported out as a “subgroup.” Districts must outline specific activities and programs to help those homeless students and set goals, such as what percentage of students are proficient on state tests, in their LCAPs.

Already, districts and schools must include information for other “subgroups,” including ethnic groups, socioeconomically disadvantaged children, English learners, disabled students and foster youth.

Homeless students already were being helped under the socioeconomically disadvantaged category. But experts note that homeless students face specific obstacles that not all low-income students do, including unstable homes, lack of food and transportation problems.

“I think it’s shining a light on a population that is sometimes overlooked,” Wheeler said.

While the law already went into effect, most districts likely won’t outline homeless student goals until the 2016-17 school year because most 2015-16 school year plans are already approved. However, districts are allowed to update their plans whenever they choose.

Homeless students’ scores would be included in the Academic Performance Index, or API, a composite number of scores and other measures, under the law. But the API is suspended for now as the state moves to a new testing and accountability system.

Toni Atkins, speaker of the California State Assembly, decided to push for the change in law, said Rick Simpson, the speaker’s deputy chief of staff. The change was quietly made with little discussion.

“We thought this was a population that has unique challenges,” Simpson said. “There ought to be some self-conscious thought to what might make those kids successful.”

Some districts already have some mention of homeless students in their LCAPs. The youth project report looked at the 10 districts with the most homeless students and found that only one, Long Beach Unified, specifically mentioned homeless students, Hyatt said.

In a search of a database compiled by Education Trust-West of districts’ LCAPs, the word “homeless” showed up in 166 plans for 2014-15. Some grouped those goals with those for foster youth.

The Los Angeles Unified School District put some new money for homeless students in the 2015-16 plan before the new law was approved. In 2013, the state’s largest district enrolled 15,972 homeless students, according to kidsdata.org.

With $1.8 million from the district’s general fund, Los Angeles Unified plans to increase its homeless education staff: The number of counselors will increase from seven to 19 and the number of aides will increase from four to 10.

Aides will assist with jobs such as distributing backpacks, transportation cards and food during the holidays. Counselors will be able to train staff in schools to help identify and help homeless students. For the first time, counselors will be assigned to reach out to shelters, as well.

“It’s definitely helpful and we appreciate it,” said Erika Torres, director of student health and human services for Los Angeles Unified. “We’re really excited to have this opportunity to have targeted support for homeless students and families.”

In addition to this new law, two other bills would address homeless students’ needs:

  • SB 445: The bill, authored by Sen. Carol Liu, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, would allow homeless and foster students to stay in the same school or feeder school, even if they move or are no longer homeless. That way, students in elementary school, for example, can continue in the feeder middle or high schools. The bill is going to the Assembly floor and is expected to be considered in August.
  • AB 1166: The bill, authored by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, allows homeless students to be exempt from local graduation requirements. The bill has passed the Legislature and was on the governor’s desk as of Friday.

 


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  1. Gary Ravani 1 year ago1 year ago

    The root causes of homelessness are many. A wildly under financed mental health system, along with some strange ideas about how to treat the mentally ill, is one. My clear recollection is that homelessness exploded in CA shortly after Reagan enacted some of his "solutions" for an extensive mental health system in the state, cutting funding and closing institutions. Child homelessness is folded into that problem along with the predatory depredations of our under regulated and … Read More

    The root causes of homelessness are many. A wildly under financed mental health system, along with some strange ideas about how to treat the mentally ill, is one. My clear recollection is that homelessness exploded in CA shortly after Reagan enacted some of his “solutions” for an extensive mental health system in the state, cutting funding and closing institutions.

    Child homelessness is folded into that problem along with the predatory depredations of our under regulated and under taxed economic system. I see the Pope has taken on some of these topics and called the excess of capitalism the “dung of the devil,” and the greed for money that results in a “subtle dictatorship that condemns and enslaves men and women.”

    And let me add the children of those men and women.

    Although the schools have a rightful place in helping to mediate some of the problems of homelessness, I feel some anxiety that once again the entire solution for various effects of poverty, in a nation that nearly leads the industrialized world in child poverty, will be laid at the doorstep of the schools.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 1 year ago1 year ago

      It would seem incredibly cheap to provide a small room for every homeless person or family with food, but the problem is when government does things they do it inefficiently. An unfairness to me is when San Francisco has to shoulder way more than it's share of the homeless budget, depriving our city of funds which could tutor poor underachieving kids. The State should pay for the homeless or San Francisco should be … Read More

      It would seem incredibly cheap to provide a small room for every homeless person or family with food, but the problem is when government does things they do it inefficiently. An unfairness to me is when San Francisco has to shoulder way more than it’s share of the homeless budget, depriving our city of funds which could tutor poor underachieving kids. The State should pay for the homeless or San Francisco should be able to restrict funding to those who have graduated high school or held a job in San Francisco for several years. This would eliminate most. Due to tourism, foot traffic, etc. many come to SF to panhandle. Many use generous money for drugs or alcohol which is a terrible idea. Most of the homeless complain about money, but if you gave them $10,000, they’d end up homeless again. They’ve had jobs and lost them. Some are crazy. We should find a way to house mentally disabled people away from population centers at a reasonable cost and their kids should be put into the foster care system as most kids of homeless, I mean their example is someone who loses every job, abuses illegal drugs and can’t make rent, 90% of the time they follow in their footsteps. They need to change.

    • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

      Of course it will. The gap in educational achievement shines the brightest light on these inequalities.
      As you know, the drunk searches under the streetlight because that’s where it’s brightest.

  2. navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

    So I know the trailer bill added homeless as a subgroup for API (which I expect also means SBAC) but I did not see any reference in that bill to adding them to the LCAP. Can you let us know where this is specified? As well as provide a link to the bill in the going deeper section (just in case it’s a different one than was previously referenced)?

    Replies

    • Sarah Tully 1 year ago1 year ago

      Hi,

      The analysis for the bill, AB 104, states:

      “Establishes homeless students as a subgroup for purposes of the unduplicated pupil counts
      used in Local Control and Accountability Plans.”

      You can look up the analysis at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/

      I hope that helps! Sarah

      • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

        Yes that's the bill I was reading. However the actual text of the bill does not mention homeless in conjunction with LCAPs, only in conjunction with the API. Based on the analysis text perhaps this means there is other existing law that references the section related to API in terms of defining what goes into th LCAP. I'm on a phone now so can't research that easily but will do so later. I had brought … Read More

        Yes that’s the bill I was reading. However the actual text of the bill does not mention homeless in conjunction with LCAPs, only in conjunction with the API. Based on the analysis text perhaps this means there is other existing law that references the section related to API in terms of defining what goes into th LCAP. I’m on a phone now so can’t research that easily but will do so later.
        I had brought up homeless to our lcap committee last year because it seemed like something that should have been included in the lcap but because the template and associated requirements did not include it, it was left out. It would be very important to be able to provide the actual reference so I’ll try to find that later myself. I’d hoped your title and first paragraph were indication that it was explicit in the trailer bill. Thx.

        • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

          Ok, yes, that was it. For those interested, the LCAP ed code (52060) references ed code 52052 for its list of students required to show results for in the LCAP. 52052 was what was modified by the trailer bill to include the homeless subgroup. Note however that this may not quite be considered by all to be the same thing as 'getting a place in the LCAP' since the definition of unduplicated students was not … Read More

          Ok, yes, that was it. For those interested, the LCAP ed code (52060) references ed code 52052 for its list of students required to show results for in the LCAP. 52052 was what was modified by the trailer bill to include the homeless subgroup.
          Note however that this may not quite be considered by all to be the same thing as ‘getting a place in the LCAP’ since the definition of unduplicated students was not changed. It is worth noting, however, that by virtue of homeless students automatically being eligible for nfrm, they already were/are part of the low-income classification. But the LCAP requirements still do not require their services be broken out independent of low-income (or any of the others if it applies) as a group (something I still think is worth changing). This is what I thought you meant by your article. But now I understand. Thanks.

          • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

            Interesting to compare comments here from the other recent thread about the Stull Act suit and Vergara before it. There's a great deal of discomfort in using adjusted test scores (VAM) for teacher evaluations, but with reference to this thread, a total acceptance of using test scores as a major component of a new API to determine progress by schools and districts towards LCAP goals. So, accountability (student test scores) as pertains to the … Read More

            Interesting to compare comments here from the other recent thread about the Stull Act suit and Vergara before it. There’s a great deal of discomfort in using adjusted test scores (VAM) for teacher evaluations, but with reference to this thread, a total acceptance of using test scores as a major component of a new API to determine progress by schools and districts towards LCAP goals. So, accountability (student test scores) as pertains to the achievement and, thus, the welfare of SC students is considered appropriately linked to absolute test scores, but accountability (teacher evaluations) as pertains to achievement of students and, thus, the welfare of teacher employment is inappropriate. Teacher unions readily accept one and impugn the other.

            • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

              First, many people do have a problem the validity of test results as an accurate reflection of what a student knows, so its not true that there is 'total acceptance'. That is a reason to decry test results, independent of what they are used for. (its even been argued that bad test results are less accurate that good ones). Second, there is a big difference between test results reflecting what a student knows, and test … Read More

              First, many people do have a problem the validity of test results as an accurate reflection of what a student knows, so its not true that there is ‘total acceptance’. That is a reason to decry test results, independent of what they are used for. (its even been argued that bad test results are less accurate that good ones).
              Second, there is a big difference between test results reflecting what a student knows, and test results reflecting how well a teacher is teaching since the teacher ‘performance’ is one step removed from the student’s ‘performance’. CA’s standardized tests were not designed to measure teachers. That was made explicit by the test provider. This appears to have changed somewhat with SBAC, though I am sure there are still many who would challenge how accurate that is.
              I was looking at TUDA results just yesterday and despairing at the triple or quadruple proficiency rates in some subjects for whites as compared to blacks in many of the participating districts. Its kind of absurd to claim that low-quality teachers are so extremely distributed. Its true that there is some inherent unequal distribution as a result of transfers, however, if that is used as evidence that the metric is teacher quality, then it would have to be admitted that experience is critical, since that distribution is currently based on that almost entirely.
              We really need to do something about this. Fighting about the wrong issue is not going to achieve that.

            • Don 1 year ago1 year ago

              - Agreed that all testing is controversial, though more so for use with teachers. I supported Vergara without buy-in on VAM. The plaintiffs had the burden to identify a preponderance of ineffective teachers at underserved schools - a difficult task given the lack and confidentiality of data on the subject. The unequal distribution is obvious, but it isn't easy to prove in court and previous challenges had faltered on that point. But showing a concentration … Read More

              – Agreed that all testing is controversial, though more so for use with teachers. I supported Vergara without buy-in on VAM. The plaintiffs had the burden to identify a preponderance of ineffective teachers at underserved schools – a difficult task given the lack and confidentiality of data on the subject. The unequal distribution is obvious, but it isn’t easy to prove in court and previous challenges had faltered on that point. But showing a concentration of ineffective teachers in court is very different from using the same methodology to fire individuals. From everything I’ve read I cannot in good faith accept value-added modeling as a legitimate tool for teacher evaluation. And, even if all the statistical problems were remedied, there are still overlaps in instruction that are irremediable. Then there’s Campbell’s Law and the pressure that tests will drive instruction narrowly (as is already the case) and corrupt the process to the core. As far as I can tell the best use of an assessment is as a formative tool to provide information early before teachers get to know their students. At present testing is still a political tool rather than an instructional one.

              But, to your last point, even if you remove ineffective teachers more efficiently, in general better teachers migrate away from lower performing schools. Therefore, Vergara is a solution to a legal issue without an answer to a policy issue. The underserved school’s revolving door just spins faster.

            • navigio 1 year ago1 year ago

              Interesting comment don. While I agree unequal distribution is probably obvious (though not uniformly--some of our best teachers are in our worst performing schools), I also believe its extent is overstated, at least wrt 'quality'. More to the point of my comment, I meant I dont believe it is what can explain the majority of test result differences. It may explain part of it, but I think even that is problematic to quantify due to … Read More

              Interesting comment don.
              While I agree unequal distribution is probably obvious (though not uniformly–some of our best teachers are in our worst performing schools), I also believe its extent is overstated, at least wrt ‘quality’. More to the point of my comment, I meant I dont believe it is what can explain the majority of test result differences. It may explain part of it, but I think even that is problematic to quantify due to the non-uniform distribution of teachers in those schools.

              I also agree with you on the real problems with VAM. In a world where a gap in both achievement and improvement exists, basing evaluations on that data will literally drive teachers out of poverty schools. While its arguable that it would do so in a way that reduces what we consider quality, clearly it would do so in a way that reduces experience (two things I happen to believe are correlated). However, once you base it on test results (which is ostensibly what would replace experience as the metric), then it would do so in a way that MUST negatively impact test results (hello?). This is the biggest (most meaningful) problem I have with teacher evaluation proposals based on standardized test results.
              Florida took the latimes approach to an legal level when it passed a teacher evaluation law a few years back. It not only was going to measure teachers this way (including not adjusting results for ethnicity) but it was going to fire them after two years and publish their names on a website, ostensibly so no one else would hire them. That law was students first’s self-proclaimed ‘first success’ in their goal of education reform.

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