Joseph P. Bishop: The Academic Success and Well-being of Homeless Students

Commentary for EdSource highlights strategies for schools to support and propel.

Joseph P. Bishop, director of the UCLA Center for the Transformation of Schools, has published a commentary in EdSource on the need to support the more than 269,000 students in California who are experiencing homelessness, especially in the COVID-19 environment of remote learning.

“How can schools support distance learning at home for students who don’t have a place to call home?,” writes Bishop. “This is a serious question for school districts and counties to consider. For too long, students have been forced to keep their stories about housing instability carefully hidden from their peers and teachers. Stigmas around homelessness must change in schools if we want to dismantle stigmas that exist outside of schools.”

Bishop describes five ways that districts can prepare for an increase in the numbers of homeless students and prioritize their academic growth and wellbeing, particularly among Black and Latino students who represent the majority of students experiencing homelessness. He points out that giving students the space to share what may be affecting their ability to learn; asking all students about the impact of the pandemic on their families’ financial and housing situations; building safe and supportive relationships by keeping lines of communication open between students, families and schools; greater flexibility in scheduling, coursework and transportation; and coordination among housing, child welfare, and school system stakeholders across cities and counties.

“It is clear now more than ever that no one agency, system, or institution can tackle the complexities of student homelessness in isolation,” writes Bishop. “Together, these strategies represent just the start of what school systems and schools should do differently to address the growing needs of students experiencing homelessness.”

Visit the EdSource website to read, “Schools must provide a learning home for students experiencing homelessness,” by Joseph P. Bishop.

Photo by Todd Cheney, UCLA