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May 2002Vol. 3, No. 4Washington State Study Focuses on Educational Attainment of Foster Children

As directed by the 2000 Washington State Legislature, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy has compiled existing research that identifies ways to improve the educational attainment of children in foster care. The report is intended for use by advocates of improvements to policies and programs.

The report found that, on average, foster youth scored 15 to 20 percentile points lower than non-foster youth in statewide achievement tests; only 59 percent of foster youth enrolled in 11th grade completed high school versus 86 percent for non-foster youth; and twice as many foster youth had repeated a grade, changed schools during the school year, or were enrolled in special education programs compared to non-foster youth.

One surprising result found that a youth's length of stay in foster care did not appear to be related to educational attainment. The research found that foster youth in short-term care have on average the same educational deficits as those in long-term care.

The study did not evaluate specific interventions or programs to assist foster youth with education issues, but it did quantify the gap between foster youth and other students in Washington State. The report draws attention to the important factors associated with academic achievement and suggests improvements in maintaining and updating records for youth in foster care.

The entire report can be viewed at: