Oregon has released a new report stating that 18,165 students in the state's K-12 public schools lived in a homeless situation at some point during the 2012-13 school year, compared to 20,370 students reported during the 2011-12 school year.
The report, which was released November 21st, said that a shift in federal reporting requirements changed how districts tracked and reported homeless students last year which impacted this year's numbers. Every school district in Oregon is required to have a homeless liaison to provide services, supports, and resources to homeless youth. In the past, these liaisons reported annual counts of the number of homeless students in their districts, according to the report.
The state-wide and county totals reported this year only count each student once regardless of the number of districts providing services to the student during the school year.
However, in order to accurately reflect the services and supports provided by each district, district counts include all homeless students served by the district, regardless of whether that student also received services at another district at some point in the school year, according to the report.
This means that the sum of all district totals will not match the state or county totals provided. The change in methodology also means that this year's data is not directly comparable with previous year's data and should be considered a new baseline, the report said.
This is the state's most detailed-ever portrait of homeless students, showing that they typically live doubled up with friends or relatives, lag far behind other low-income students in reading and math, and are disproportionately older teens or 20-year-olds who haven't earned a diploma five or six years after starting high school, writes Betsy Hammond of The Oregonian.
Half those without homes of their own were in rural or small-town Oregon, in places such as the farming community of Culver or the coastal city of Coos Bay. The other half were found in the Portland metro area, particularly east of 82nd Avenue in Multnomah County, and in mid-size cities such as Medford, Beaverton and Eugene.
For the first time, state officials were able to track the academic performance levels of homeless students and, as they expected, found that lacking a secure place to live hurts students' school performance.
The percent who performed at grade level on state tests was 52% in reading. That compares to 59% of low-income students generally and 72% of all students who took the state reading test. Homeless students performing at grade level in math was at 39%. That compares to 50% of low-income students in general and 63% of all students who took the state math test last year.
The districts informed the state where they believed each homeless student was living — in a shelter, in a motel, doubled up with friends or relatives, or without shelter, such as on the streets or in a car. More than three-fourths of the homeless students were reported to be living temporarily with relatives or friends.
The Beaverton district reported both the most homeless students overall, 1,373, and the most living doubled up in someone else's home, 1,120. Another 20% were reported to be living without their parent or guardian, many of them teens or 20-year-olds who "couch surf" at other people's homes. Almost one-third of Eugene's homeless students, 240 teens, fell into that category, according to the state.
Another 10% were reported as staying in shelters, 9% as living on the streets or in vehicles, and 4% as staying in hotels. Portland Public Schools reported by far the most students living in shelters, 180.
According to the report, almost 2,500 of Oregon's homeless students were considered seniors in high school and that they were as old as 20 and 21, indicating "many are fifth- or even sixth-year seniors." Kindergartners made up the second-largest grade-level group of homeless students. In all, 1,560 students in kindergarten were homeless, the report said.