Overlooked: The Far-Reaching Consequences of Late Identification of Homeless Students for Special Education Services

New York City’s Department of Education spent approximately $3 billion on special education for close to one in five public school students in SY 2013–14.1 Each of these almost 200,000 students had an Individualized Education Program (IEP), a mandated plan outlining the special education services they will receive to support their learning while facing challenges within one of 13 disability categories such as speech/language impairment and learning disabilities.2 Meeting the special education needs of students is critical to their academic success; meeting the special education needs of homeless students, who already face so many challenges, is paramount. While in both policy and practice, students’ needs should be identified as early as possible, homeless students are significantly more likely to receive an IEP later than their housed peers. This report demonstrates the disparity in identifying homeless children for special education and presents data suggesting that late identification has significant impacts on retention, suspension, and academic proficiency. Timely identification and intervention is fundamental to ensure homeless children do not needlessly fall behind in school.*

Publication Date: 
United States