About 48% of children in state care from 9th through 12th grade graduate from high school in four years, compared to about 73% of all students in Washington State. This represents 52 students of the 109 who remained in placement statewide continuously through four years of high school.
Students who do not graduate in four years may eventually receive a high school diploma or GED, and they are not counted in this measure. Based on research outside Washington, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) estimates that between 5% and 29% of foster youth may receive high school credentials by completing a GED before the age of 20, bringing the high school completion rate for foster youth (GED plus diploma) to as high as 73% for the class of 2009 (see High School Graduation and Dropout Trends for Washington State Foster Youth [2005-2009], October 2010).
In June 2011, DSHS completed a new contract with WSIPP to expand and strengthen data collection, analysis, and reporting. In the next GMAP report, which will show data for the 2009-10 school year, the GMAP measure will be our first look at foster youth in Washington who receive their high school credentials through either GED completion, on-time graduation, or extended graduation (foster youth who take longer than four years to graduate high school). This will more accurately reflect the educational experiences of foster children, who sometimes lack academic proficiency due to life events and/or disabilities.
In addition to the on-time graduation rate of youth in foster care for all four years of high school, WSIPP analyzed the relationship between the graduation rate and the length of time youth were in foster care. The data for the class of 2009 indicate that state policies and programs that support educational achievement have a positive effect on youth who remain in the foster care system for a period of time:
• 39% of the 297 foster youth in placement for less than half of the school year (90-179 days) graduated on-time.
• 43% of the 333 youth in care between 180 and 359 days during the school year graduated on-time.
• 45% of the 846 youth in care over the entire course of the school year graduated on time.
A social worker’s ability to understand a child and support healthy outcomes is dependent on the depth and quality of information gathered from the child, family, caregivers, school personnel, medical providers, and others. Cross-systems work is ongoing to improve the availability of educational information and to strengthen partnerships promoting educational achievement for children in foster care.
The education workgroup, a continuation of the oversight committee established by the legislature in 2002, meets to follow-up and support implementation of recommendations to improve educational outcomes and graduation rates. The group reviews data and reports as they become available, responds as improvement needs are identified, and is participating in the implementation of the Educational Framework for youth in foster care.