Primary Sources: Helping Homeless Youth Succeed in School

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Photograph of a young man standing at a chalkboard.

"Resilient Educational Outcomes: Participation in School by Youth With Histories of Homelessness," Youth & Society, Vol. 43, No. 1, March 2011

What it's about: This study looks at how homelessness and extreme poverty affect young people's education. The researchers surveyed homeless youth to find out what factors made them more or less likely to stay in school and do well.

Why read it: Youth workers may be better equipped to help youth get an education if they understand the key factors that predict whether or not homeless youth will do well in school.

Biggest take away for youth workers: The authors suggest that supportive, stable housing is the key factor in helping youth get back on track in their schooling. Typically, they say, the longer youth are housed, and the more supports they have available to them, the more empowered and engaged in their own educational outcomes they become.

The researchers also found disturbing gender differences. Boys in the study were more likely to drop out of high school than girls were. That may be because boys also tended to have fewer positive experiences at school, to be disciplined more, and to be held back more often. The findings suggest that teachers and youth workers may need to pay special attention to supporting homeless boys.

Additional reference: The National Center on Homeless Education has an extensive summary of research examining the relationship between homelessness and academic achievement. NCFY's "Linking Education and Employment for Brighter Futures" looks at the ways runaway and homeless youth programs help young people continue their educations.

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, FYSB or the Administration for Children and Families. Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of this and other publications.)

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