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First ESSA Guidance Focuses on Promoting Educational Stability of Foster Youth

First ESSA Guidance Focuses on Promoting Educational Stability of Foster Youth

The U.S. Department of Education has released the first guidance of a series on how states should implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, the country’s new education legislation that will go into effect in August.

The first guidance revolves around ensuring educational stability for foster youth, a group who Education Secretary John B. King, Jr. said is one of the most vulnerable in our country’s education system.

"Data show that foster youth are more likely than their peers to experience a host of barriers that lead to troubling outcomes, including low academic achievement, grade retention and lower high school graduation rates,” the guidance says.

“Children in foster care often face steep challenges to school success, including high rates of mobility. The new protections for children in foster care under ESSA will apply to all children in foster care enrolled in public schools.”

Under the new Title I educational stability provisions that will go into effect December 10, 2016, schools must ensure that a child in foster care will stay in his or her school of origin if it is in his or her best interest. If a child must enroll in a new school, it is to happen right away and the process not be prolonged by missing required records for enrollment. Schools are required to be vigilant in transferring the foster care child’s academic records to the new school.

"Due to the high mobility of children in foster care, State guidance is crucial for consistency across school districts,” the guidance says.

Additional requirements for ensuring the educational stability of children in foster care include a set of concrete responsibilities for child welfare agencies acting in the interest of children in foster care to ensure the above-mentioned provisions.

The guidance goes on to define what an appropriate educational setting for foster children is. It suggests that agencies consider the following when determining if an educational setting is fit for foster youth:

  • Preferences of the child’s parent(s) or education decision maker(s);
  • The child’s attachment to the school, including meaningful relationships with staff and peers;
  • Placement of the child’s sibling(s);
  • Influence of the school climate on the child, including safety;
  • The availability and quality of the services in the school to meet the child’s educational and socioemotional needs;
  • History of school transfers and how they have impacted the child;
  • How the length of the commute would impact the child, based on the child’s developmental stage;
  • Whether the child is a student with a disability under the IDEA who is receiving special education and related services or a student with a disability under Section 504 who is receiving special education or related aids and services and, if so, the availability of those required services in a school other than the school of origin; and
  • Whether the child is an EL and is receiving language services, and, if so, the availability of those required services in a school other than the school of origin, consistent with Title VI and the EEOA.
  • The guidance continues on to make recommendations on transportation for foster youth, managing disputes when deciding what is in the foster youths' best interest and how to protect foster youths' data privacy during the process.

Finally, the guidance suggests that agencies work with school staff to ensure the individuals that work with foster youth are properly trained.

"Agencies may provide training to school staff including principals, teachers, school counselors, school social workers, and school enrollment personnel about the needs of children in foster care and background information about the child welfare system,” the guidance says.

"Possible areas for training include understanding the importance of maintaining children in their schools of origin, understanding the process and factors involved in making a best interest determination, coordinating transportation plans, protecting student privacy, and maintaining accurate education records for children in foster care."

Read the guidance in its entirety here.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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