E-Alerts & Press Releases

Baltimore County Homeless Students Achieve School Success


Contact: Debra Gardner, PJC, 410 625 9409 x228; Phyllis Reese, BCPS, 410 887 2010

August 25, 2010: The Public Justice Center (PJC) and the Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) are pleased to announce that BCPS has achieved substantial compliance with the Consent Decree and Memorandum of Understanding concerning the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Improvement Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento). McKinney-Vento was passed to protect homeless students from the effects of academic instability and to ensure them the same access to academic achievement that students in stable housing have. Homeless parents and students sued BCPS for alleged violations of McKinney-Vento in 2006 and, without admitting liability, BCPS entered into a Consent Decree to settle the lawsuit in 2008, in the case of Peterson, et al v. Baltimore County Board of Education, et al, Case No. CCB 06-1067 (D. Md.). Under the terms of the court-approved agreement, in addition to improving policies and procedures, the school system provided training to school personnel and produced monitoring reports each semester for review by the attorneys for homeless families. The plaintiffs’ attorneys are allowing the Consent Decree to lapse as the 2010-2011 school year is set to begin, because BCPS continues to do well by its homeless students, and they in turn are doing well in county schools. BCPS has continued to enhance programs and services provided to homeless students.

A key to providing homeless students with school continuity and stability is identifying them in the first place. In order to maintain continuity in a homeless child’s education, homeless students are identified, enrolled in school and attending classes within twenty-four hours. BCPS identified approximately 970 homeless students in the school year that ended in 2006. In each of the four years since 2006, the identified homeless population has increased by approximately 200 students, a change BCPS attributes, in part, to the economic climate and to improvements made in identification and tracking. Last year, BCPS identified 1738 homeless students, nearly doubling the number of homeless students benefitting from BCPS’ enhanced homeless education program. The goal of identifying homeless students is to enable them to remain in their own schools with transportation to and from their temporary residence or shelter or guarantee immediate enrollment in a new school even when required documentation is not immediately available.

To improve opportunities for academic success, Baltimore County Public Schools sends teachers into Baltimore County homeless shelters, after students have completed the regular school day, to provide students with assistance with homework, academic remediation and preparation for the Maryland State Assessments (MSA). According to an evaluation of last school year, MSA reading, math and science scores increased for all students, and in most areas, homeless students’ performance improved even more than that of the general student population. For example, math results for homeless students on the MSA for the 2008-2009 school year indicate that 39 percent scored basic, 50 percent proficient, and 11 percent advanced, a 6 percentage point increase in proficient or advanced scores from the previous school year.

“We are most excited by the visible proof that Baltimore County Public Schools supports academic improvement for homeless students,” said Sally Dworak-Fisher, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs in the suit. “Providing the educational stability that homeless students require in order to learn is at the heart of McKinney-Vento and why the Public Justice Center seeks to work with school systems throughout Maryland. BCPS has implemented a system that works, and the test results reflect that success,” added Debra Gardner, the PJC’s legal director. Dr. Joe Hairston, Superintendent, is very pleased with enhancements made to the homeless education program and academic improvements made by homeless students in the county. The Baltimore County Public Schools continues to strive to enhance educational opportunities for all students including homeless children and youth.

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