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Data Sources & Definitions

Colorado Study of Students in Foster Care

The Colorado Study refers to the longitudinal study of educational outcomes of students in foster care and factors that affect these outcomes. University of Northern Colorado conducts research in partnership with Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Department of Human Services using state administrative data from 2007-08 to 2013-14. 

Students in Foster Care

Children and youth who experience an out-of-home placement and are enrolled in a Colorado public school during the same state fiscal year. Out-of-home placements include congregate care settings such as group homes, residential childcare, detention and youth corrections, and psychiatric facilities, as well as family-like settings such as foster care, certified and non-certified kinship, and even youths in independent living arrangements. The out-of-home placement could be brief (e.g., a few days) or cross multiple years.

Annual Outcomes

Most outcomes are reported on an annual basis. Students who were in foster care or another out-of-home placement during the same state fiscal year are included in analyses.

Cohort Outcomes

Graduation and completion rates are cohort outcomes. Students are in a “foster care cohort” if they experienced an out-of-home placement during high school. Cohort outcomes are tracked based on when students are anticipated to graduate, which is four years after initially entering ninth grade.

School Mobility

A broad term encompassing all entries and exits into a school or district that are not part of a typical or normal academic progression. In the Colorado Study of Students in Foster Care, the term school mobility is typically used as an overarching construct and narrower terms, such as school changes or school transfers, are applied to analytic strategies.

School Changes

A count of the number of times a student enters a new or previously attended school after initially enrolling for the school year. School changes include entries into traditional public schools and juvenile detention centers in the same year as an out-of-home placement. 

High school cohort analyses begin the count at the initial entry into ninth grade.

School Transfers

Changing from one public school to another public school after the initial enrollment for the year. School transfers do not include transitions to or from facility schools or juvenile detention centers. School transfers refer to the transitions among more traditional school environments. Transfer language is typically used when there is a geographical reference such as within or between school districts.

Academic Achievement

Academic Achievement data are CSAP or TCAP end-of-year test results. Data reported are for students who took a given assessment in the same year they were in foster care.

Grade Progression

Students in foster care are reported as progressing to the next grade if they enrolled in a higher grade level by October 1st of the subsequent academic year. These analyses exclude youth in facility schools, detention centers, and those that did not re-enroll in a Colorado school the next year.