HERC study spotlights struggles many HISD families face

A large number of students enrolled in the Houston Independent School District need help with basic needs such as food, clothing, health care and school supplies, according to a new research brief from Rice University’s Houston Education Research Consortium.

The study reveals that a substantial number of Houston-area school children reported sometimes not having enough to eat at home and going without medical care when they are sick. Meanwhile, a large proportion of HISD families struggle to provide children with clothing and school supplies.

“Wraparound Needs in HISD: Findings from the District’s 2019 Needs Assessment Survey” was authored by HERC researchers Kori Stroub, Ming Yin and Camila Cigarroa Kennedy. The researchers conducted their study to help the school district determine how it can expand its wraparound service offerings to better connect students and families with community resources. A total of 51,769 students, 5,305 parents and 4,698 teachers completed the survey. 

The researchers found that many HISD families had difficulty obtaining medical, dental and vision services for their children. Nearly 13% were unable to take their child to the doctor when sick, almost 20% were unable to provide annual dental checkups and about 40% went without annual vision checkups.

Mental health challenges were also a problem. Almost 30% of students said they often felt sad, lonely or anxious. Nearly 1 in 5 students reported missing school regularly for mental health reasons, and about a third said they regularly lost focus in class.  

More than a quarter of families regularly had trouble making rent or mortgage payments, and 1 in 6 regularly couldn’t afford their utilities. About 17% of students reported routinely feeling hungry due to lack of food at home.

About 1 in 6 families reported struggling to provide children with clothing and school supplies, and nearly a quarter of students and a third of parents said they did not have reliable computer or internet access.

HISD launched a wraparound services department in 2017, helping students and families find resources covering a host of basic needs such as food, clothing and transportation. The district is trying to determine how it can expand and improve those efforts to help struggling families through support from the community and sources such as the Houston Endowment.

The findings from HERC are complemented by the HISD Needs Map, designed by ProUnitas with guidance from HERC. It utilizes HERC’s research, data from public sources and data collected directly by ProUnitas in an effort to help meet the needs of students and their families. More information about the dashboard is available online at https://bit.ly/39O7OPj.

The research brief is available online at: https://herc.rice.edu/research/wraparound-needs-hisd-findings-districts-2019-needs-assessment-survey.