McCarver Elementary program showcased before national audience at conference in Washington D.C.

Policymakers, educators and leaders from around the country got a look Thursday at how cooperative efforts between the Tacoma Housing Authority and Tacoma Public Schools are benefitting families with children at McCarver Elementary School in the city’s Hilltop neighborhood.

The McCarver project was showcased at a national conference in Washington, D.C.

If outcomes continue to show promise, the program could expand to other Tacoma elementary schools, a report delivered at the conference said. The housing authority is also working to create a similar program for homeless students at Tacoma Community College, according to the report.

Thursday’s conference was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the National Housing Conference and the National Building Museum.

Begun in 2011, the McCarver program offers homeless or at-risk families housing vouchers with rock-bottom rent for the first year. Rent increases annually over five years, until families pay 80 percent of the city’s fair market rent.

In the meantime, parents commit to keep their children enrolled at McCarver and to support their children at school, making sure they arrive on time and have a place to do homework. Parents also agree to work on their own educational needs and job pursuits.

Case workers from the housing agency are based at the school to connect parents with needed services.

The program serves about 50 households and 80 McCarver students. McCarver offers the International Baccalaureate Primary Years program, aimed at building students’ love of learning through interdisciplinary studies that include language, math, science, the arts and more.

During its first three years, the McCarver program has shown some promising results, according to the report delivered at Thursday’s conference.

Some highlights:

• Early results indicate that the program has increased literacy. Reading tests administered by the school district show McCarver program students do better than homeless and low-income elsewhere in Tacoma schools.

• In the spring of 2013, 61.1 percent of the program’s students read at grade-level, compared with less than half of homeless students in the city.