Ensuring foster youth don’t lose out on partial credit
(Calif.) Along with new requirements to engage parents as part of the budget process, perhaps no aspect of the state’s new funding and accountability program for schools delivers more anxiety than mandates surrounding foster youth.
Not only are districts required for the first time to file detailed, public reports on the academic progress of foster children but administrators must also develop plans outlining specific goals and activities that will be undertaken to improvement performance.
As such, there’s new emphasis on the obscure process for measuring, awarding and accepting partial credits earned by foster youth between interruptions caused by the courts, school transfers or disruptive home life.
Although California has long been a national leader in establishing the educational rights of foster youth on paper, promising results have remained elusive as about 60 percent of the foster student population continues to drop out early from high school.
Perhaps even more telling, less than 3 percent of foster youth ever obtain a college degree.
One of the key barriers to better classroom performance is that over an average academic career, a foster youth will change schools six times and lose about five months of learning after each transfer. As a result, 80 percent of all foster youth are forced to repeat a grade by the time they are eight years old.
Even before the Legislature adopted the Local Control Funding Formula, foster youth had the right to receive partial credits for all work satisfactorily completed before transferring schools under Education Code Sections 49069.5 and 51225.2, according to a resource guide developed by the Alliance for Children’s Rights in conjunction with the California Department of Education, the Department of Social Services, the California School Boards Association and the Child Welfare Council.
Among the key directives:
- Grades cannot be lowered due to absences or gaps in enrollment caused by changes in school or home placements, attendance at court hearings, or participation in any court related activity.
- Upon receiving notification of a transfer, the sending school must issue check out grades and calculate and send credits earned on an official transcript to the receiving school within 2 business days.
- The receiving school must accept all credits, apply them to the same courses, and enroll foster youth in the same or equivalent classes as they were enrolled at the sending school.
- Foster youth who transfer schools after their second year of high school may opt to graduate by completing only state requirements if they cannot reasonably complete additional local graduation requirements.
- Alternatively, foster youth also have a right to remain in high school for a 5th year to complete local graduation requirements.
- Only the education rights holder can exercise the right to graduate under AB 167/216.
- Once found eligible, foster youths’ right to graduate under AB 167/216 cannot be revoked, even if their foster care case closes, they are reunified with their parents, or they transfer schools again.
Advocates argue that although the laws require district issue and accept partial credit, too many still do not follow through. Some of that is expected to be addressed by the new responsibilities schools have under LCFF to develop and publish Local Control Accountability Plans.