On July 22 and 23, Education Leads Home (ELH) hosted the six state grantee teams of the State Partnerships on Student Homelessness Project in Tacoma, Washington for its first-ever in-person convening. Practitioners from state education agencies, school districts, higher education institutions, nonprofits, and early childhood education programs from Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, and Kentucky gathered at the University of Washington-Tacoma to learn from one another and share out on their work to date.
Since the fall of 2018, ELH’s State Partnerships on Student Homelessness Project has brought together dedicated professionals from around the country to take action toward overcoming child and youth homelessness through education, resulting in measurable progress toward one or more of the three ELH goals:
- Reaching equitable participation in quality early childhood programs for young children experiencing homelessness;
- Increasing high school graduation rates for students experiencing homelessness;
- Increasing postsecondary attainment of young people experiencing homelessness;
These six state teams have researched and begun implementation of new approaches to address the most urgent needs of children and youth experiencing homelessness in their respective communities, creating an innovative and collaborative “learning lab” of best practices that will promote educational achievement and help break the cycle of poverty and homelessness. Project content areas range widely, including improving access to early childhood education programs, growing existing host home programs to facilitate high school graduation, and increasing Title I set-aside funding to support the academic success of homeless students.
The two-day convening kicked off with a discussion about the vision and scope of the ELH campaign and how each project is representative of and integrated into ELH’s long-term objectives. Teams then had ample time to both reflect and strategize internally and to problem-solve across state lines, sharing what has worked and—just as importantly—what hasn’t worked in their respective efforts to support some of the country’s most invisible children and youth.
Katara Jordan from Building Changes in Washington State shared that, “Our populations [children and families experiencing homelessness] are often hidden. To support students experiencing homelessness in Washington State, the state legislature established a statewide workgroup to develop a plan for students experiencing foster care and homelessness to help them reach educational equity with their general student population peers by 2027. The great thing about the work group is that state agencies and nonprofits are both at the table and committed to following through on implementing the plan.” She continued, “At every single level, every person is a policymaker, which is why it’s important to have government and nonprofit organizations at the table. The only way to do this work is to ensure systems are working together in meaningful and concrete ways. I don’t think it’s possible if you’re operating in silos.”
Despite the differences in goals addressed, teams reported that they benefited tremendously from the opportunity to connect with one another in person and meaningfully reflect on their accomplishments, unanticipated barriers and challenges, and plans for sustainability. “That was one of the best and most diverse conversations I’ve had at a work-related convening,” noted Jordana Ferreira from Early Childhood Action Strategy in Hawaii.
The ELH team extends special thanks EducationCounsel for their unparalleled support in the strategic planning of and facilitating this inaugural convening.
We look forward to supporting each state team and facilitating cross-state learning in the weeks and months ahead.