LAUSD making moves to boost foster youth outcomes

LAUSD making moves to boost foster youth outcomes

(Calif.) The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education announced it will produce the most comprehensive report in the state on the outcomes of foster youth in the district–a step board members said will be the first toward ensuring students receive the support they need.

The new report will include the enrollment size and mobility, academic growth and social emotional well-being of students living in foster care.

“Los Angeles Unified serves the greatest number of foster youth in California,” board member Kelly Gonez said in a statement. “While the state does require we report on certain indicators specifically for foster youth, far too often we see our foster youth students’ mobility prohibiting their academic outcomes from being adequately reported. We have an obligation to take a comprehensive look at all factors contributing to the current and future success of our students in care: school stability, academic data and social emotional indicators.”

Studies have shown that more than one-third foster youth throughout the country will change schools at least five times before they turn 18 years old, with each move costing about four to six months of academic process.

In California, data shows that foster youth continually have the lowest graduation rates, as well as the highest dropout rates at three times the rate of all other students–outcomes that may be partially tied to constantly uprooting. They also have among the lowest test scores in English-language arts and mathematics of any subgroup.

In an effort to reverse that trend, the state’s Local Control Funding Formula provides districts with extra funding to address the physical, emotional and psychological trauma students in the foster system have experienced, and provide them with the support services and other resources they need to thrive in the classroom.

And under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, school districts and child welfare agencies are required to work together to provide transportation for foster youth so they can stay in their school of origin even though their home placement may change.

There are nearly 7,100 LAUSD students residing in foster care, according to 2018-19 district data.

In addition to tracking school stability, academic data and social emotional indicators of foster youth, the resolution adopted by the school board also directs the superintendent to establish formal partnerships with higher education institutions to better facilitate the transition of students in foster care from K-12 education system to colleges and universities.

The superintendent has also been asked to consider expanding partnerships with Los Angeles County to ensure more access to mental and physical health services on campuses, and to lobby for more funding from state lawmakers.

Board members and district superintendent Austin Beutner said the additional reporting and partnerships will help bolster district support for foster children’s overall wellbeing.

“While all our students are challenged to work hard and succeed, there are many who face the added pressures of moving frequently among homes and families,” Beutner said in a statement. “These students deserve our help to bridge any impediments they face on the road to success in their education and in life.”

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