Updated 10/18/2011 11:40 PM
City Public School Officials Paint Dire Picture For More Than 50K Homeless Students
The federal government is ordering the state to monitor how the city is educating its more than 50,000 homeless public school students, and on Tuesday the City Council learned from the Department of Education just how bad things are for these vulnerable children. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
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Of all the groups in the city’s public schools, homeless students are likely the most disadvantaged, with the worst chance of getting a good education. Last year, 53,500 city public school students were homeless.
On Tuesday, the Department of Education revealed just how badly those students are doing. The graduation rate is 41 percent, compared to a citywide rate of 61 percent.
In elementary and middle school, an average of only 38 percent of homeless students passed the math exam, compared to the citywide average of 57 percent.
Only 27 percent of homeless students passed the English exam, versus 44 percent citywide.
Several city agencies serve homeless children, but there has been little coordination. That became clear last January, when a student had to miss a Regents exam required for graduation so she could be with her family for a hearing to get into a shelter.
That problem has been fixed, but it spurred a City Council oversight hearing, held Tuesday.
"New York City has a responsibility to our homeless children," said Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma.
The City Council is not the only one checking in. NY1 has learned the federal government recently decided to monitor whether the city is keeping up with that responsibility.
One of the most important things for homeless students is that they stay in the same school, as research shows that makes a big difference.
The Department of Homeless Services says it tries not to move families very far. Officials admit only 35 percent of families are placed in a shelter in the same school district as their youngest child's school.
"We want to do better than 35 percent. It is too low, I think," said DHS Commissioner Seth Diamond.
School systems are required to help students continue to attend their original school, even if it is far away.
Elsewhere in the state, homeless students get a bus ride, as long as they are within 50 miles. But the city only buses students if they are within 5 miles of the school. The rest get MetroCards.
"Without busing, parents of elementary school students must rely on DOE-provided MetroCards to accompany their child or children twice a day, every school day. For too many families, a MetroCard offers no solution," said Jared Stein of Advocates for Children.
That is one of the policies the federal government will likely be investigating.