Foster Care Children Being Left Behind


An interesting story out of California shows that while the state saw an improvement with their Smarter Balanced Assessment scores (if you can really get excited about less than 50% of students meeting or exceeding standards) there is a group that is lagging behind – foster care children.

Kristin DeCarr at Education News reports:

For the first time, the scores of the state’s foster youth have been separated by education officials, finding that these students are learning less than their peers.  As the scores for the 2014-15 school year show, the first year that scores of the new, harder exam were reported, 18.8% of students in the foster care system met or exceeded standards on the English exam in comparison with 44.2% of their non-foster peers across the state.  Results were similar in math, with 11.8% of foster students meeting or exceeding standards, while 33.8% of their non-foster peers did the same.

Foster students were also found to have a lower participation rate on the exams.  While 27,651 foster students, 89.8% of those enrolled, took the English exam, 96.1% of non-foster students participated.  Meanwhile, 27,475 foster students, or 89.3%, took the math exam in comparison to 96.3% of their non-foster peers, writes Joy Resmovits for The Los Angeles Times.

Experts believe the lower participation rates to be a reflection of the difficulty with which children move through the foster care system.  A study performed by the nonprofit educational research organization the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd found that just two-thirds of foster students remain in the same school each year.  In addition, it was discovered that one in ten have attended three schools over the course of just one school year.

According to the nonprofit Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, each move to a different school results in a loss of between four and six months of learning.

I worked with at-risk youth for 13 years, including children and youth who were considered CINA or Child in Need of Assistance. These kids were the ones who made up Iowa’s foster care system. From my experience what I can tell you is that there is nothing standards or assessments can do to help these kids achieve academically. That is not the answer. They need stability and they need support.

These kids also disprove the argument that having common standards will help students who change schools. Obviously that isn’t the case. Moving from school to school causes a disruption that no set of standards can address.