The influence of student homelessness on educational outcomes : a multiple case study of four unaccompanied homeless youth.
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Wigtil, Kathy Mustacato. 1955-
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Students experiencing homelessness often face barriers to school success. The purpose of this multiple case study was to understand the influence of student homelessness on educational outcomes for four unaccompanied homeless youth with whom I worked over a 1- to 3-year period. Student homelessness was defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (2001). For the purposes of this study educational outcomes were defined as graduating from high school and/or college. In order to study the complex phenomenon of student homelessness and its influence on educational outcomes, and for the purposes of triangulation, multiple data collection techniques were implemented including case notes, my recollections of interactions with the participants, and interviews. Pattern matching, analytic induction, and a cross-case analysis was used to analyze the data. In this explanatory multiple case study, I examined how the students’ homelessness influenced their educational outcomes and if their stories illustrated common themes from the literature regarding the influence of homelessness on educational outcomes. The data were analyzed from the perspective of themes found in the literature and using aspects of culturally responsive teaching and care ethics. Themes that were highlighted in the study included: the hiddenness of student homelessness (Ingrim, Bridgeland, Reed, & Atwell, 2016; Morton, Dworsky, & Samuels, 2017), the importance of student connectedness and social supports (Delpit, 2006, 2012; Gay, 2002; Julianelle, 2008; Nieto, 1999, 2013; Noddings, 2005, 2012), and the need for positive adult interventions (Dill, 2015; Endres, 2012). The study findings highlight several themes to note when working with students experiencing homelessness. Programs and activities that created a sense of belonging and support for homeless students were shown to be helpful interventions. Additionally, all the students described the need to have been better prepared for post-secondary life and they gave examples of the determination and resiliency it took to graduate from high school and/or college. The study findings also pointed to implications for educators, students, and community partners, and recommendations are presented. Finally, areas for future research are discussed.