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Journal articles and reports are annotated to assist you in identifying the most relevant information. Links are provided to Colorado Department of Education’s legislative reports that contain both state and county-level information on students in foster care.

 Journal Articles

The effects of placement and school stability on academic growth trajectories of students in foster care

As a result of the Every Student Succeeds Act and its requirement that students in foster care be included in education report cards, states have a renewed sense of urgency surrounding accountability for the academic achievement of this vulnerable group of students. This study examined the effects of placement and school stability on students' academic growth before, during, and after out-of-home placements. The sample consisted of 7674 youth in 4th through 10th grades from one Mountain region state who were also in foster care at any point between 2008 and 2014. The findings from the current study underscore the importance of: (a) supporting “catch-up” growth when students initially enter the child welfare system; (b) considering the detrimental effects of co-occurring placement changes and school moves in case planning for students in foster care; (c)maintaining academic progress for those students who are meeting grade-level expectations; and, (d) implementing supports and services that extend beyond the duration of time that students are in foster care.


Elysia V. Clemens, Kristin Klopfenstein, Trent L. Lalonde, Matt Tis, The effects of placement and school stability on academic growth trajectories of students in foster care, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 87, 2018, Pages 86-94, ISSN 0190-7409, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2018.02.015.

Educational stability policy and the interplay between child welfare placements and school moves

Despite recent improvements in child welfare placement stability, youth in foster care still experience high rates of school moves. Although these findings are well documented in the literature, few studies have considered the interplay between child welfare placements and school moves. The purpose of this study was to determine the proportion of school moves that can be reduced through implementation of the educational stability provisions of the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act (FCA, 2008) and the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA, 2015), and to identify opportunities to minimize the number of transitions that children and youth in foster care experience. Findings indicate that implementation of the FCA and the ESSA is a critical, but partial, solution for ensuring the educational stability of students in foster care. This article provides an empirical rationale for states and local jurisdictions to incorporate non-regulatory recommendations in order to fill the gaps in federal regulations.


Elysia V. Clemens, Kristin Klopfenstein, Matt Tis, Trent L. Lalonde, Educational stability policy and the interplay between child welfare placements and school moves, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 83, 2017, Pages 209-217, ISSN 0190-7409, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.11.003.

The voices of youth formerly in foster care:  Perspectives on educational attainment gaps

As a population, youth who experience foster care graduate from high school at rates well below their non-foster care peers (National Working Group for Foster Care&Education, 2014). A Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) study was conducted to better understand the perspective of former foster youth on the graduation gap and their experience in school. Analysis of focus group data revealed one overarching domain, emotional consequences, as well as seven additional domains that related to youths' experiences surrounding their educational attainment: resilience, basic needs, internalized messages about education, educational stability, consequences of school mobility, fastest or easiest positive exit from K-12, and recommendations from youth. This research highlights the challenges faced by 16 former foster youth, their perspectives regarding the need to raise expectations, and their suggestions for closing the educational attainment gap.


Elysia V. Clemens, Heather M. Helm, Kristin Myers, Christina Thomas, Matt Tis, The voices of youth formerly in foster care:  Perspectives on educational attainment gaps, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 79, 2017, Pages 65-77, ISSN 0190-7409, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.06.003.

Advocating for Educational Stability for Youth in Foster Care

In an ideal educational setting, students know what to expect, have their educational needs met, and feel connected to the school community. Such a setting gives students the educational stability to learn and make progress toward a high school diploma and beyond. However, for many youth involved in the foster care system, frequent school changes, gaps in enrollment, and delayed transfer of records can create a disjointed educational experience that has the potential to affect them their entire lives.


Elysia Clemens, Kathleen McNaught, Judith Martinez, Kristin Klopfenstein, Advocating for educational stability for youth in foster care, ABA Child Law PracticeVolume 36 (3), Pages 57-59, ISSN 2161-0649.

The relationship between school mobility and students in foster care earning a high school credential

This study examined the relationship between school mobility for Colorado students in foster care and educational attainment outcomes, specifically earning high school diploma, a high school equivalency diploma (e.g., through examination such as a GED), or exiting the K-12 system without a credential. Multinomial logistic regression was utilized to analyze the predictive role of school mobility related to high school educational attainment within a statewide sample of four cohorts of students who experienced out-of-home placements during high school. Results indicated that students in the foster care cohorts changed public schools an average of 3.46 times during their first four years of high school. As the average number of school changes increased, the odds of earning a high school diploma decreased and the odds of earning an equivalency diploma (e.g., GED) or exiting without a credential increased. Grade level analysis suggests that educational stability in ninth and twelfth grades may be particularly important to closing the high school graduation gap for students in foster care. A more comprehensive child welfare profile that includes frequency of residential moves, types of placements, and mental or behavioral health indicators was not included in analyses, and this limitation must be considered when using the results of this study to inform policy or practice.


Elysia V. Clemens, Trent L. Lalonde, Alison Phillips Sheesley, The relationship between school mobility and students in foster care earning a high school credential, Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 68, 2016, Pages 193-201, ISSN 0190-7409, http:// doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2016.07.016.

Full Research Reports

Every Transition Counts: Education Stability of Colorado Students in Foster Care (2007-08 to 2013-14)

Educational stability is likely to improve the odds of students in foster care graduating from high school. Colorado students in foster care typically change schools three times during high school. This synthesis of Colorado foster care student mobility research begins by establishing the relationship between the number of times students change school during high school and gradation rates. The lens widens to a K-12 examination of the probability of changing schools based on grade level and demographic characteristics. The application to policy and practice is framed by the 3T’s: Transitions, Transcripts, and Transportation.

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Graduation and Dropout Rates for Colorado Students in Foster Care: 5-Year Trend Analysis (2007–08 to 2011–12)

This first look at educational outcomes for Colorado students in foster care provides a description of trends in graduation and dropout rates for Colorado students in foster care during the 2007–08 to 2011–12 fiscal years. Fewer than one in three students in foster care graduated with their class. Students in foster care dropped out earlier in high school then their non foster-care peers. Findings are disaggregated by demographics. Report includes a section on students in foster care who are also in special education.

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Brief Reports

In 2014, Colorado Department of Education and Colorado Department of Human Services adopted Legal Center for Foster Care and Education’s Blueprint for Change: Education Success for Children in Foster Care as a framework for a state action plan. The Blueprint has eight goals and numerous benchmarks. These brief reports are typically designed to inform the dialogue about a particular benchmark. 

Summary of Transportation-Relevant Foster Care School Mobility

Transportation is needed to ensure that it is feasible for students in foster care to remain in their schools of origin, if it is in their best interests. This report was developed to inform the development of a Request for Information (RFI) regarding statewide transportation solutions.

Information that may be of interest to a broader audience includes the prevalence of within versus across district school transfers. Also included are geographical depictions of where school transfers typically occur in Colorado.

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Summary of Foster Care Students in Special Education School Mobility

The target audience for this report is Special Education Administrative Units (e.g., districts or BOCES) and leaders engaging in dialogue regarding school stability efforts for special education students in foster care. 

Information that may be of interest to a wider audience is the frequency of primary disability types.

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Colorado Department of Education Reports to the Colorado Legislature

State Policy Reports: Dropout Prevention and Student Engagement

Beginning in 2012-13, the annual dropout prevention and student engagement legislative reports included students in foster care as a unique population of students. Dropout, graduation, completion and mobility rates for students in foster care are reported. These data are reported at the state-level in the narrative and at the county-level in appendices.

Foster Care Education Summary Report:  2012-2013

This report marked the first time that Colorado Department of Education (CDE) was able to report on graduation, completion, and mobility rates for students in foster care as a result of a historic data use agreement between CDE and Colorado Department of Human Services.  Information is included regarding the following topics: 4-year graduation rates for foster care youths; 5-year graduation rates for foster care youths; and, school mobility rates for foster care youths. A “framework for improvement” is described.

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