Elementary School Housing Assistance Program

Elementary School Housing Assistance Program

McCarver Elementary School is an important school in Tacoma with a notable history. It opened in 1925, first as a junior high school, and then later as an elementary school. Many graduates have become leaders in Tacoma. McCarver was the nation's first magnet school to lead a voluntary effort to reduce racial segregation. More recently, McCarver has faced some challenges. Its student population is the poorest among Tacoma's elementary schools and has more homeless students than any other elementary school in the region, possibly the state. Academic outcomes are poor at McCarver. What caught THA's eye was the turnover rate among the students each school year. Prior to THA's intervention, it ranged between 100 percent and 179 percent a year. This transience did not result from occupation. The McCarver population is not a farm worker population. It is not a military population. It is because of homelessness, deep poverty and the family struggles that go with it. This data led THA to an 18-month planning effort with the Tacoma Public School District (TPS), the staff and faculty of McCarver and its parents, which resulted in the McCarver Elementary School Housing Pilot Program.

This program has five main elements:

  • Housing: To help stabilize the school, THA provided rental assistance to fifty (50) homeless families with children enrolled in kindergarten, first or second grade at McCarver. The eighty-five (85) children of these families constituted 20% of the school's student population. As originally designed, the amount of the rental assistance started high, paying most of the rent. It would then taper down to zero after five years.
  • Parent Commitment: The Project asked cohort parents for three commitments. First, it asked them to keep their children enrolled at McCarver. Second, the program asked them to participate actively in their children's education. This means getting their children to school on time every day, making homework time and space available at home, reading to their children, attending every parent-teacher-student conference, and attending PTA meetings. Third, the program also asked parents to invest in their own education and employment prospects.
  • Supportive Services: The project provided the parents with supportive services to help them fulfill these commitments. THA has two caseworkers stationed at the school for the purpose. They provide case management support. They arrange services from an array of service partners.
  • School District Investment: The Tacoma Public School District (TPS) has made the substantial investment to bring the Primary Years International Baccalaureate Program to McCarver. This will help raise academic standards for the entire school, both students and faculty. The school district has also warmly welcomed THA and its caseworkers into the school.
  • Third-Party Evaluation: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded a third party evaluation that tracks an array of outcomes. The evaluator is Geo Education & Research. Its evaluation reports are available below. From the beginning of the pilot, THA and TPS determined that three years’ worth of data were necessary to judge the program design. The evaluator issued its third year's report in February 2015. Among other outcomes, it reports that school annual mobility rate declined from 114% prior to THA’s intervention down to 96% after the first year and down further to 74% after the third year. The cohort children's reading scores increased 22% after the first year. In the second and third years, the cohort children sustained those gains, performing at the same level as all other children at the school. According to one measure, 61% of the cohort children read on grade level; by another measure 41% did so. The mean earned income of the cohort families has more than doubled since their entry into the program while the mean unearned income has remained essentially stable. About a third of the parents prospered notably, improving their education and training and significantly increasing their earnings. About a third of the parents made no progress, largely because of disability (primarily mental illness), drug or alcohol dependency, domestic violence or other trauma. About a third of the parents fell in the middle range of achievement.

McCarver Program Year Five Report (March 2017) [PDF]

These encouraging results allow THA and TPS to plan as follows. They will turn the program at McCarver from a pilot to a regular offering of the school. That will start in the Fall of 2015. In the Fall of 2016, they will plan to extend the program to the next elementary schools in Tacoma with ruinous transcience rates because of homelessness. In doing so they will adjust and redesign the program to account for what they learned.

Links to THA's McCarver Evaluation Design Reports


THA McCarver Special Housing Program 2012 Evaluation Report:

Evaluation Design and Initial Findings (July 5, 2012) [PDF]

THA McCarver Special Housing Program 2012 Evaluation Report:

Evaluation Design and Year One Findings (October 1, 2012) [PDF]

THA McCarver Special Housing Program 2013 Evaluation Report:

Evaluation Design and Year Two Findings (January 30, 2014) [PDF]

THA McCarver Special Housing Program 2014 Evaluation Report:

Evaluation Design and Year Three Findings (February 10, 2015) [PDF]

THA McCarver Special Housing Program 2015 Evaluation Report:

Evaluation Design and Year Four Findings (February 19, 2016) [PDF]


Download the 2016 McCarver Special Housing Program Program Manual [PDF]

Description of THA's Elementary School Housing Assistance Initiative [PDF]

Education Project press release [PDF]

Proposed Administrative Plan Changes for McCarver [PDF]

Listen to the NW News Network produced broadcast on the McCarver Program, featuring the Gantt family.  

Affordable Housing Consortium Forum on THA's McCarver Program

On March 13, 2013, the Tacoma Pierce County Affordable Housing Consortium held a public forum featuring the McCarver Special Housing Program.  Speakers included Kurt Miller of the Tacoma School Board, THA Manager of Educational Programs Michael Power, and former McCarver Principal Scott Rich.  The forum was broadcast on TV-Tacoma and can be viewed below.

The KBTC TV Northwest Now episode about the THA McCarver Project and our partnership with KBTC on the Ready to Learn grant is available on their website at http://vxideo.kbtc.org/video/2281448192

Program contact:

Kendra Peischel, Client Services Program Supervisor
(253) 207-4472