The holiday season is here, and we are all swamped. Right now, I am thankful for being healthy. But in these times, that can change so quickly. I think when Thanksgiving comes around we all tend to think about those that are not eating a Thanksgiving feast and those that are less fortunate than us. For those of us that work with students and families experiencing homelessness, I know our hearts are with them during this time. I am also thankful that I don’t have to travel a long distance to be with family. For those that do, I am sending out positive vibes of safety and wishing that everyone has safe travels to see their loved ones.
What I took away from the NAECHY Conference
In the business of identifying students experiencing homelessness building, a relationship and trust are key. Identification of students starts with the front office people working in the schools, but it doesn’t end there. ARP-HCY has given us an opportunity to reevaluate our McKinney-Vento program to see what works and how to get better results identifying students.
I was looking at my notes from the recent NAECY conference, and something that Rebecca McSwain from North Carolina stuck in my head. Her presentation was on Improving Connection and Providing Targeted Interventions to close the GAP for students. She said that the identification of students increased by 30 percent when they trained enrollment staff, and she then said this allowed the staff then to concentrate more on those students identified. That was powerful. Train and then work on getting even better results. That’s something to think about.
For those new to McKinney Vento
For some LEAs, moving past that training aspect is hard. It may be because you need more time to train. After all, you are wearing multiple hats. I know some LEAs in our state are having problems with this. But whatever the reason, training is necessary, and must be made a priority. Start small and head to the National Center for Homeless Education, where you can get links to online training. Don’t lose heart, one LEA told me it took her five years of constant training before her staff got it right where she wanted.
Training could be easy as having your staff watch a video at the beginning of the year. Make it a natural progression. You can show the videos and then start doing live in-person training.
Once you get your staff to the point of identifying homeless students you can concentrate more on student success. I have noticed some rural districts making progress in breaking down these barriers. Breaking down barriers for students experiencing homelessness takes many forms. For some districts, it may be a one-stop center for others, it is an online registration and relevant information, or it could even be as simple as making transportation to the school of origin much easier for the student. One district used ARP funds to create a position to help with identification during the summer. This put this district ahead by two months when school started for them in August.
McSwain’s words drew me into her presentation. She went on to talk about what schools needed to do to reach the students and increase engagement with students. She said increased engagement leads to more students completing high school. That sounded great and kept me listening. She then talked about increasing engagement through high school mentors who will work with students experiencing homelessness. These mentors would work with the students to keep them engaged in school by building trust with the students.
"Everything about our school feels better when students feel engaged, and they're engaged when they're successful, when people care about them, and when they belong. Check & Connect has a benefit both for the students in their individual success, as well as for the school and our culture and our overall success in accomplishing our mission."
- Dave Brecht, Principal, Chaska High School, Chaska, MN
This quote resonated with me. As a school, you identify the students, and then you seek other ways to form a deeper connection with the students. This could be the way for some districts, and I hope some of you take the time to look at it.
In the end, COVID has made us explore new ways of reaching and engaging with students. Yes, Mentorship has been around, and it isn’t a new thing. You Google mentoring programs, and they fill the page. Mentoring programs are just but one avenue to engage students. But--Check and Connect is backed by research, which is not something all mentor programs have and so it is worth a peek.
ARP-Homeless I and 2 updates: As of this date, 100 percent of all Homeless 1 and 2 LEAs have started. Of the nine LEAs with ARP Homeless 1, 88 percent have started spending. For ARP Homeless 2, 42 percent of the LEAs have begun spending.