Education outcomes for foster youth are going in the wrong direction

The State Board of Education received the 2nd annual Foster Care Education Outcomes Report earlier today. The report, jointly submitted by the Indiana Department of Education and the Indiana Department of Child Services, brings to light the disparity in the educational performance and outcomes of the state’s school-age foster youth.

Over the past year, DCS and IDOE have improved their data matching and tracking systems allowing for a more accurate reporting of the number of foster youth in school and their outcomes. This year’s report included data for almost 17,000 PK-12 students in school across the state.

We were hoping with a more complete data this year, we would see a more positive picture regarding the education outcomes of the state’s foster youth, unfortunately, the more complete data set only emphasized and further heightened the continued disparities in the educational foundation that we are laying for Indiana’s students in foster care. 

This year’s report reveals a 10% decrease in graduation rates for high school seniors in foster care from the prior year and shows that of those who graduate, students in foster care graduate with waivers 3x more often than other students and receive General Diplomas at 2.5x more often than other students. 

Additionally, foster youth experience higher rates of retention, meaning they are held back a grade more often than other students, and experience far higher expulsion and suspension rates.

The report shows devastating outcomes for Indiana’s students in foster care including:

  • The overall graduation rate for foster youth fell from 64.6 percent in 2019 to 55.3 percent in 2020. That compares to an overall graduation rate of 87.3 percent for other students this year.
  • Nearly 36 percent of foster youth receive a graduation waiver, compared to about 12 percent of their peers. The waiver rate increased a whopping 75 percent from last year.
  • Almost 1/4 of foster care youth are suspended each year and 1/3 of African American foster care students are suspended each year. Suspension leads to missing valuable time in the classroom, likely contributing to the poor academic performance of students in foster care.
  • Foster students are expelled at nearly two and a half times the rate of their peers.
  • Foster students are held back three times the rate of the general student population.
  • The ILEARN and IREAD passage rates for all tested grades lag well below other students. ILEARN math and language arts passage rates in grades 3-8 are half of the general population.

The state report can be viewed here in its entirety from the SBOE website or download it directly from Foster Success [PDF].

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