The Unseen and Unsupported Students in Charter Schools

Charter schools in Los Angeles County serve over 252,000 students. In the 2018-2019 school year, 4,429 of those students were identified as experiencing homelessness. This brief report offers an analysis of countywide data on charter school students experiencing homelessness.

Key Findings:

  1. In LA County charter schools, the 5-year cohort graduation rates for charter school students experiencing homelessness is 45%, approximately 35 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for students experiencing homelessness in non-charter, public schools.
  2. 40% of high school students experiencing homelessness in LA county charter schools were chronically absent and missed 18 or more instructional days in the 2018-19 school year. Moreover, one out of every two Black high school students experiencing homelessness were chronically absent.
  3. The homeless liaison is the most important role in supporting students experiencing homelessness as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. In LA County charter schools, this role is often designated to network leadership and school administrators.
  4. Homelessness experts assert that typically 10% of economically disadvantaged students experience homelessness. Employing a 10% benchmark in LA county charter schools suggests that in 2018-2019 potentially 6,463 students experiencing homelessness were not identified or served.
  5. To ensure that students experiencing homelessness are identified and supported in charter schools, it is critical that schools implement student audits twice a year using a 10% benchmark to identify potential undercounting. Further, schools must designate a homeless liaison capable of fully executing the federal mandates of the position and serving as head of a larger student support team.