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Report: NYC School Attendance Rates Among Students Living In Shelters Much Lower Than Permanently Housed Peers

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A troubling new report has found that New York City students living in shelters had significantly lower attendance rates than their permanently housed peers.

As a result, advocates are calling on the city to make changes, CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis reported Monday.

"It was disheartening," said Megan Wendt, program coordinator at BronxWorks Family Shelters.

That's how Wendt describes the past school year for homeless families trying to navigate the many changes during the pandemic.

"The motivation to continue attending school was not easy to maintain, both for our older students, who are a bit more intrinsically motivated, and for our parents, with our younger students getting them up and off to school every day or getting logged in every day with the proper and consistent reliable technology," Wendt said.

As program coordinator of BronxWorks' "Attendance Matters" program, Wendt and a team of shelter staff are constantly reviewing school attendance data to help and, if necessary, intervene.

She said she was saddened but not surprised to learn citywide attendance for students in shelters was significantly lower than students in permanent housing between January and June.

"Their attendance was anywhere between 11 and 14 percentage points lower than their permanently housed peers," said Jennifer Pringle of the group Advocates for Children of New York.

Pringle's nonprofit analyzed Department of Education data. The attendance rate for students in shelters was as low as 74%, compared to their peers, at around 90%.

"Students who have poor attendance are more likely to drop out of school and not graduate from high school, and students who don't get a high school diploma are four and a half times more likely to experience homelessness as an adult," Pringle said.

While the analysis found access to in-person learning helped improve attendance rates, Pringle pointed out this was a problem before the pandemic, as well.

In a statement, the DOE said, "Supporting students and families affected by homelessness remains a priority for the DOE, and over the past two years, we have almost doubled the number of dedicated staff members working in school and shelters to over 300."

"We have to start looking at providing additional supports for families, so that students in shelters can regularly attend school," Pringle said.

She's calling on the city to use federal funds its poised to receive to add more shelter-based community coordinators, to help the tens of thousands of shelter students in need. It's something the city is exploring.

The nonprofit said the trend has continued into the start of the new school year, with the average attendance for students in shelters at 73%, compared to 87% for students citywide.

For a closer look at the report, please click here.


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