top of page

A Systems Thinking Approach

Systems thinking is a holistic approach that focuses on the ways that a system's constituent parts interrelate and how systems work over time and within the context of larger systems. Systems thinking can be used in research and practice, and it has been applied to the fields of medicine, politics, economics, human resources and education, among many others.

Our approach is informed, in part, by the transformations that have taken place in the Housing and Urban Development (HUD)‐administered homeless assistance programs.3 Over the past decade, HUD integrated previously “silo‐ed” homeless assistance programs into a single program known as the Continuum of Care (CoC) program. CoCs are charged with designing a local “system” to assist sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness and providing the services necessary to help them access housing and obtain long term stability.

NYTEACHS empowers educators, particularly LEA Homeless Liaisons, within what we call NYS’s System for Homeless Student Support (“SHSS”). The purpose is to help LEA Homeless Liaisons and other stakeholders recognize and understand the larger system within which they are operating so that they can effectively leverage resources, collaborate to address student needs, and improve procedures, practices and policies. The key agent within the SHSS is the LEA Homeless Liaison. This individual is tasked under the McKinney‐Vento Homeless Assistance Act with ensuring that eligible students:

  • Receive a free, appropriate public education;

  • Enroll in school immediately, even if lacking documents normally required for enrollment, or having missed application or enrollment deadlines during any period of homelessness;

  • Enroll in school and attend classes while the school gathers needed documents;

  • Continue attending the school of origin, or enroll in the local attendance area school if attending the school of origin is not in the best interest of the student or is contrary to the request of the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth;

  • Receive transportation to and from the school of origin, if requested by the parent or guardian, or by the local liaison on behalf of an unaccompanied youth; and

  • Receive educational services comparable to those provided to other students, according to each student’s need.

A Systems‐Thinking Approach for Identification of Homeless Students

Measurement Incorporated_Technical Proposal RFP #21-012_Page_024_edited.jpg

Another frequently cited challenge is transporting students from temporary housing to their schools. While transportation may be isolated to the Office of Pupil Transportation, when one considers the issue at the level of the overall system, it becomes apparent that other people and entities may need to be involved as well, including staff at the shelter/temporary housing, school staff, and the Title I Coordinator, as illustrated below.

A Systems‐Thinking Approach for Transportation of Homeless Students

Measurement Incorporated_Technical Proposal RFP #21-012_Page_025_edited.jpg

A third example illustrates how an LEA Homeless Liaison can approach the issue of providing supplemental
education to homeless students. It is not simply a matter of assigning the students to their school’s existing before or after school programs, weekend programs or summer programs. If the student commutes a substantial distance to the school, it may be better for the student to engage in supplemental educational services provided at or near their shelter/temporary housing.

Systems‐Thinking Approach for Supplemental Education for Homeless Students

Measurement Incorporated_Technical Proposal RFP #21-012_Page_026_edited.jpg
bottom of page