Educators' Perspectives Regarding the Role of Schools in Meeting the Needs of Elementary Homeless Students

Date

2021-08

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Abstract

Background: Schools are commissioned to ensure that all children receive an equitable and quality education – special and general education alike. Elementary homeless students outside the special education umbrella are often not given the kind of support and attention needed to ensure a quality and equitable education. Schools often do not exhibit practices that are responsive to the experiences and needs of this group of students in elementary school. Purpose: This study investigated educators’ perspectives regarding the role schools play in meeting the needs of their elementary homeless students. It examined practices implemented by the school compared to practices necessary to ensuring quality education for elementary homeless students. Question: What are educators’ perspectives regarding the role of schools in meeting the needs of elementary homeless students? Methods: This study adopted the qualitative case study approach as it investigated a socio-educational phenomenon involving the experiences and perspectives of educators. To ensure credibility, data for this study were collected through two 45-minute individual semi-structured interviews with five participants and the researcher’s interim journal entries. Participants were educators of demographic variety recruited through convenience and purposeful sampling from a Title I elementary public school in a lower-class socioeconomic community with a diverse population. The first interview was used for coding of themes, and the second was used to enhance and extend responses, complete member checks, and ask additional questions for follow-up information. Interview transcripts were reviewed by each participating educator for accuracy. The interim notes were from the researcher’s reflective journal and were used for tracking and coding salient themes that have come up throughout the research. Data were analyzed through hand-coding by the researcher for variables, categories, and emerging themes. Findings: Following the analysis of data, the study found 1) There needs to be consistency in the identification of elementary homeless students throughout the school year, 2) The impact of homelessness and the needs of students are dependent on the individual child, 3) Focusing on the pressing needs of elementary homeless students is key to reaching them academically, 4) Employing practices beyond the McKinney Vento Act guidelines as well as practices that are responsive to the culture and experiences of elementary homeless students is key to ensuring a quality education for the students, 5) There are inadequate professional development opportunities for some educators on homeless students and none on culturally responsive practices specifically for this group of students. Conclusion: Educators were very concerned about the identification and servicing of the elementary homeless students. It is their perspective that the role of the school in meeting the needs of elementary homeless students begins with the identification of this group of students throughout the school year and a focus on the pressing needs of each child to reach them academically while meeting all other needs across the board. Equipping all educators with adequate knowledge and employing practices that go beyond the provisions and guidelines of the McKinney Vento Act will help ensure quality and equitable education for every elementary homeless student.

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Keywords

Educators’ perspectives, Homeless students, Homelessness, Homeless students’ needs, Culturally responsive practices

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