Press release

Suspensions, Exclusion and Moving From School to School Are Barriers to Successful High School-to-College Transition for Many Foster Youth, Report Finds

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Educational Results Partnership (ERP), a non-profit organization that applies data science to help improve career readiness throughout the educational system, in conjunction with California College Pathways (CCP) and John Burton Advocates for Youth, have published a new report on foster youth outcomes in the California education system. The report builds on prior research conducted by ERP and CCP, which indicated that despite recent statewide policy efforts to improve outcomes for California’s foster youth, significant achievement gaps persist. The new report, Pipeline to Success: Supporting California’s Foster Youth from High School to Community College, linked longitudinal student data between K-12 and community college systems to identify the factors that hinder or contribute to the success of foster youth in California’s high school to community college pipeline.

“Foster youth deserve the same opportunities to succeed as all other students,” said Dr. James Lanich, ERP’s President and CEO. “Using a data-informed approach, our new report identifies factors that reduce the academic success of foster youth, as well as factors that contribute to their academic success. These findings can help K-12 districts, community colleges and other government agencies adopt practices that will ensure a successful transition to college for foster youth.”

Overall, the report found foster youth in California experience persistent challenges as they transition from high school to postsecondary education. The findings indicate that the most detrimental factors to foster youth experiencing worse academic outcomes than their peers in both high school and community college are: higher rates of suspension or exclusion during 12th grade and attending multiple high schools. These barriers to success in high school have a lingering impact on academic performance in college. Conversely, the report states that foster youth college students who receive financial aid, living expenses, counseling and education planning have higher GPAs and earn more credits in their first year of postsecondary work – an indicator that funding for such support programs is having a positive impact.

“This research was about better understanding foster youth’s unique academic experience and illuminating the disparities that exist in their transition from high school to community college,” said CCP Project Director Debbie Raucher. “By identifying progress and challenges, we can develop and enact policies and tools that will improve student outcomes and career trajectories.”

Other key takeaways from the latest ERP report include:

  • Foster youth are suspended or excluded from high school at nearly three times the rate of non-foster students.
  • Students who attended a greater number of high schools had a lower GPA and earned fewer credit units in their first year of community college than students who went to fewer high schools.
  • Just 54 percent of foster youth students complete high school in four years, compared to 83 percent of the general student population.
  • Foster high school students are applying to community colleges at a higher rate than non-foster students.
  • Only half of foster students who apply to community colleges end up enrolling.
  • The average GPA for foster youth in their first year of college is 25 percent lower and they earn one-third fewer credit units than their non-foster peers.
  • There is a need for secondary and postsecondary institutions to work more closely with one another to provide and link valuable data on student educational and career outcomes.
  • There is a need for consistent definitions and matching data between the California Department of Social Services and the community college system.

“We hope the collaborative support that made this report possible leads to actions that will improve coordination between agencies that are focused on helping foster youth succeed,” said Dr. Lanich.

Pipeline to Success: Supporting California’s Foster Youth from High School to Community College is funded by the Stuart Foundation and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and is available at www.edresults.org/blog.

About Educational Results Partnership

Educational Results Partnership is a non-profit organization that applies data science to help improve student outcomes and career readiness throughout our educational system. In partnership with educators and employers, ERP is charting the pathways that lead to academic success and living-wage jobs with the goal of ensuring that more students are equipped to enter the workforce with the skills today’s global economy demands. Learn more at: www.edresults.org .

About California College Pathways

California College Pathways (CCP) is a public-private partnership that is helping foster youth across the state achieve their higher education goals and move on to fulfilling careers. CCP supports campus networks of programs for foster youth, provides training and technical assistance for emerging and established campus programs, advocates for policies and regulations to improve higher education outcomes for foster youth, and collaborates to create a more seamless pipeline to college for K-12 foster youth. Learn more at: www.cacollegepathways.org .

About John Burton Advocates for Youth

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) is a statewide nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, working to improve the quality of life for California’s foster, former foster, and homeless youth. It was founded in 2005 by progressive champion John Burton, a former member of Congress, the California State Assembly and President Pro Tem of the California State Senate. John Burton Advocates for Youth works in three areas: education, housing and health. Learn more at www.jbaforyouth.org .