Governor Signs Wright Bill Boosting Academic Outcomes For Foster Children in State

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senator-roderick-wright Governor signs Wright bill  for foster children

Senator Roderick D. Wright

Governor Schwarzenegger has signed legislation authored by Senator Roderick D. Wright (D-Compton) that will boost the academic performance of foster children in California by limiting the number of school transfers they endure each year.

The new law will help school districts, social workers, and foster parents keep foster children on a steadier academic track to success.  Wright’s legislation adds academic stability as one of the key elements of matters considered in the “best interest” of foster children in public schools.

“We have worked for years on closing the achievement gap to ensure that foster children keep pace with their colleagues,” Wright said.  “This bill will help create a way in which all the stakeholders in foster care can work together to help foster children perform better in school and achieve academic outcomes that greatly improve the quality of their lives and their prospects for successful adult lives.”

SB 1353 (Wright) was sponsored by Compton Unified School District, which operates its own successful program to track the academic progress of foster students and seeks ways to work with parents and social workers to keep kids in school during the academic year.

“Studies show that when foster children are constantly moved from school-to-school during the academic year, you see very poor academic achievement levels and some of the lowest graduation rates among any high school students,” said Senator Roderick D. Wright. “My legislation urges school officials to work with foster parents and county social workers to help students remain in the schools they are attending to stabilize their performance and social maturity.”

SB 1353 does this by clarifying that “educational stability” is a crucial part of ensuring and protecting the best interests of foster children. It also clarifies that when school transfers are necessary in accordance with the law, social workers, and local education agencies should collaborate to schedule the placement change to coincide with summer matriculation.

“Educational stability is a top priority that should be addressed along with the other considerations involved in determining when and where a child’s foster care placement changes,” said Compton Unified School District Trustee Margie Garrett.

Compton USD serves approximately 1,265 foster youth in its schools.

The National Institute for Higher Education Policy estimates that foster youth lose an average of four to six months of educational attainment each time they change schools.  As a result, the average child in foster care loses, rather than gains educational growth each year.

Foster children, on an average, experience higher rates of tardiness, absence and truancy, ultimately causing them to fail courses or repeat grades more frequently than their peers.  They are more likely to receive disciplinary actions such as probation, suspension or expulsion and have lower grade point averages and standardized test scores.  Nationwide, only 50% of children in foster care graduate high school.  In California, less than 3% continue to college, according to the National Center for Youth Law.

SB 1353 won unanimous, bipartisan support in the legislature and brought teachers, administrators, social workers and foster care advocates together behind it.

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