Education Leads Home Releases Homeless Student State Snapshots

Twenty-six states share high school graduation rates for homeless students that reveal educational challenges above and beyond poverty alone.

Line graph showing a steadily rising number of homeless students from 800,000 in 2016 to 1,355,821 in 2017
Bar charts for 44 states showing graduation rates for all students, economically disadvantaged students, and homeless students.

State-level data shows that homeless students graduate on time at significantly lower rates than their housed peers. In fact, data from the National Center for Homeless Education1 released this week found a national average graduation rate of just 64 percent for homeless students, as compared to the low-income rate of 77.6 percent, and 84.1 percent for all students.

These gaps reflect the significant educational challenges – above and beyond poverty – that homeless students face. We can and must do more to remove these barriers. Students cannot afford to miss out on the critical first step of a high school diploma due to homelessness.

Erin Ingram, Senior Policy Advisor, CIVIC

One of the Education Leads Home campaign goals is to raise the graduation rate for homeless students to 90 percent by 2030. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states are now required to disaggregate graduation rates for homeless students and will be required to share 2017-2018 graduation rates for homeless students next year. Among the 26 states that have shared graduation rates for homeless students with Education Leads Home, the lowest rate is just 45 percent.

In addition, this year marks the highest number of homeless students enrolled in public schools on record. This increase may be due in part to improved school identification of homeless students, a positive first step, since those students will be more likely to access the supports they need if identified. Armed with an arguably more accurate understanding of the breadth and depth of student needs, states reporting higher numbers of homeless students or lower graduation rates are well positioned to be acutely responsive with targeted services, policies, and practices.

Homelessness among students is more than just a housing problem. It impacts every aspect of a child’s life. Education is key to breaking the cycle of poverty and establishing economic mobility. It’s the only way we can prevent today’s homeless children and youth from becoming the next generation of homeless adults. The good news is that we have strong policy on the books that many school districts are implementing robustly; we can and should learn from and replicate these best practices.

Barbara Duffield, Executive Director, SchoolHouse Connection

State Report Cards


  1. Refine and standardize systems for identifying homeless students in school
  2. Actively work with students to help them stay in school. Examples include:
    • Be more flexible with policies around attendance and timelines for assignments;
    • Assist students as they work through challenges in transfers of test scores and transcripts;
    • Help students navigate legal issues around obtaining parental consent to re-enroll or participate in school activities
  3. Actively work to connect homeless students to outside supports, such as housing organizations, mental and physical health providers, mentoring groups, and extracurricular activities.
  4. Work to ensure ESSA is fully implemented, including removing the barriers to access as required by law, and educating school staff on the requirements of McKinney-Vento under ESSA.


Students experiencing homelessness are 87 percent2 more likely to drop out of school than their housed peers; without a high school diploma, youth are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness3 later in life.

Furthermore, more than 95 percent of jobs created during the economic recovery have gone to workers with at least some college education, while those with a high school diploma or less are being left behind. Research continues to support the imperative of actively addressing the educational needs of homeless students to help break the cycle of poverty.

As ESSA is implemented, Education Leads Home will continue to monitor states’ progress and identify and share best practices to improve student outcomes in communities across the country. This data will allow experts and policymakers to assess the need for improved policies and targeted resources to keep students on track to graduate.

Media Kit

Media Contacts

Matt Atwell, CIVIC,

Barbara Duffield, SchoolHouse Connection,




Deutsche Bank
Raikes Foundation
The California Wellness Foundation
Education Counsel