The Partnership for the Homeless

Education Rights Project

boy drawing

We all know that getting a good education is closely tied to future economic prosperity, health and wellness. And, of all the negative indicators for young adults setting out, failure to finish high school is among the most devastating.

Homelessness interferes with educational success. There is a strong link between student mobility and displacement, repeating grades, and dropping out. The statistics are sobering:

  • Children who are homeless repeat a grade at twice the rate of their peers.
  • Proficiency rates in reading and math for children who have been homeless are on average 16% lower than the scores for all students.
  • Fewer than 1 in 4 children who experience homelessness graduate from high school.

Once school failure sets in, a vicious cycle of poverty often begins. In East New York, where we have our Family Resource Center, less than half of all adult residents have a high school diploma, while half receive public assistance and over 30% live below the poverty line.

Breaking the cycle of school failure and generational poverty is the goal of our new Education Rights Project. It works with children and their families in East New York to support academic progress and build self-esteem – so students are more likely to stay in school and parents are better equipped to support their children’s schooling, despite housing instability.

We focus on children in the elementary years, often turning point years that influence whether a child will ultimately go on to graduate or drop out. The bedrock of the project is three intersecting guiding principles:

  • Children experiencing housing instability can continue to succeed in school if they are supported to build the skills and confidence to counter the impact of their circumstances.
  • Parents can learn to be strong supports for their children’s education and effective advocates for their needs with schools.
  • Teachers and school authorities can be supported to become better partners in responding to the particular challenges of children experiencing homelessness or housing instability.

In the Education Rights Project children and families are paired with an education advocate and offered a program of workshops and skills building activities pegged to increase school attendance, reduce in-school behavioral issues, and improve overall school performance. By coordinating the education advocate’s work with other Partnership services being provided to the family, our goal is to create a seamless web of support to help the whole family thrive. And by working with school personnel as partners, we hope to build a new institutional awareness of how best to keep these children in school and succeeding academically.

Arts & Music Education

One of the best ways to do this is through art and music education. Study after study reveals that music and art keeps students in school, especially those at risk of dropping out or those with distinctive learning styles, and can increase academic performance, team building, and assist in self expression, problem solving and other cognitive skills.

And yet, in recent years, the arts have seen a continuing decrease in funding and attention, especially in low-income urban schools, where scarce resources are spent on bringing up math and reading scores because schools face the risk of closure if students do not pass math and reading tests.

Because we want to make sure children in East New York have exposure to the music and art, the Education Rights Project plans to provide ongoing arts enrichment activities, beginning with a kick off event on May 12 called The Legacy of Charles Mingus: Bringing Music and Art to the Kids of East New York, Brooklyn. The event will feature an interactive performance with members of Charles Mingus’s legacy bands and the children of East New York. Through a formal collaboration with Let My Children Hear Music: The Charles Mingus Institute and Teachers College at Columbia University, this event is just the beginning of our plans to provide music, dance, and photography activities to children who little-to-no access to music and art at school.

Read more about the Family Resource Center