Under Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal government and the Maryland State Department is addressing the school stability challenges that our children in foster care face each day. Children and youth in foster care represent one of the most vulnerable student subgroups in this country. Of the approximately 415,000 children in foster care in 2014, nearly 270,000 were in elementary and secondary schools. Studies find that children in foster care are much more likely than their peers to struggle academically and fall behind in school. Students in foster care at age 17 are also less likely to graduate from high school, with only 65 percent graduating by grade 12. A recent study found that children in foster care in California scored lower on assessments and showed less progress in scores over time compared to peers of similar backgrounds who were not in foster care.
Children in foster care experience much higher levels of residential and school instability than their peers; one study showed that 75 percent of children in foster care made an unscheduled school change in one school year, compared to less than 40 percent for children not in foster care. Unplanned school changes may be associated with delays in children’s academic progress, leaving highly mobile students potentially more likely to fall behind their less mobile peers academically. Children experiencing this type of instability, including many students in foster care, are thus more likely to face a variety of academic difficulties.
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