State Rankings of Identification of Homeless Students

Over 1.5 million children nationwide experienced homelessness during the 2017–18 school year. Regardless of how each state approaches efforts to identify homeless students, identifying and counting these students is the first step to ensuring access to the educational supports they need. Unfortunately, this access often varies by geography. Overall, factors such as accessibility to early education programs or a school’s capacity to identify the signs of homelessness and housing instability early not only vary by district, but by state. These factors also influence the extent to which a homeless child’s education is helped or hindered.

Developing a mechanism to assess states’ efforts and ability to identify homeless students is a first step to enabling educators and policymakers to consider reforms that ensure homeless students have the same opportunity for a quality education as their housed classmates.

To provide a platform for these conversations, ICPH began measuring the identification of homeless students by state. These rankings are now an interactive web tool that displays the relative position of all 50 states (plus the District of Columbia) across multiple indicators and how each state’s own ability to serve homeless students has changed over time.

These rankings are not intended as a critique of states’ efforts, but rather to provide a means of comparison and guidance to the successful efforts of states across the country. States ranked with a lower number are seeing more success in their efforts to identify different groups of students experiencing homelessness and may serve as a resource to other states.

Although it is difficult to measure the full complexity of states’ homeless identification efforts, ICPH determined five key indicators that best capture a state’s ability to serve different types of homeless students:

In addition to being presented separately, these indicators are also combined into an overall ranking summarizing a state’s ability to identify and serve students that experience homelessness. There is no way to determine with certainty the total number of students that are experiencing homelessness in each state, but as a means of quantifying these identification efforts, the assumption is that the higher the ratio of students identified as homeless, the better a state is doing. Nevertheless, a state that has a lower ratio of homeless students identified from within a certain population may in actuality have fewer students in need relative to another state. For that reason, these rankings are not intended as a final verdict on state identification efforts, but a way to start the conversation around the identification of homeless students—a conversation that needs to include local dynamics and context to fully understand how best to support the country’s growing number of homeless students.

Explore the map below to see where your state ranks and scroll down for more information on how these indicators were chosen and calculated.

Hover over a state and click through the years to see how the rankings have changed over time. Click on a state for more information.

Click below to learn more and see where your state ranks on each indicator.