Date of Completion

Spring 5-6-2012

Thesis Advisor(s)

Catherine Little; Peter Baldwin; Preston Britner; Diane Quinn

Honors Major

Education

Disciplines

Education | Elementary Education and Teaching | Junior High, Intermediate, Middle School Education and Teaching | Other Education | Other Teacher Education and Professional Development

Abstract

Each year, 1.5 million children spend at least one night in a homeless situation (Public Broadcast Station, 2009). These students struggle to achieve academically with schooling that is inconsistent in both location and curriculum and living conditions that are not conducive to homework and study. This study examined educators’ perceptions of homelessness and the academic and social needs of homeless students, as well as the preparation that teachers and other school personnel report that they have received in pre-service preparation programs and through professional development opportunities to address the unique needs of homeless children and youth. The project explored educator preparedness to respond to this population of students, in connection with federal legislation and professional recommendations on the issue. Throughout the course of this study, survey and interview data were collected from educators in four New England school districts, two of which are located in small suburban areas and the other two of which are larger, more urban districts. Survey data across all districts indicated that educators are confident in their roles as "mandated reporters." Despite this general awareness, respondents indicated much lower levels of knowledge about the requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act, federal legislation that outlines schools' responsibilities regarding the support of students in homeless situations. Interview data indicated that educators perceive school leadership and communication between school administration, faculty and students as the most important factor in shaping schools' response to this unique population. Data collected in this study have been used to create an online guide that will provide resources to help educators more effectively respond to the needs of homeless students.