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The Invisible Achievement Gap: Education Outcomes of Students in Foster Care in California's Public Schools

By Vanessa Ximenes Barrat, BethAnn Berliner


This first-of-its-kind analysis links data from California’s education and child welfare systems to create an education snapshot of K-12 students in foster care in California.

The report, written by WestEd’s Vanessa Barrat and BethAnn Berliner, details a previously invisible achievement gap between children in foster care and other students, including students with low-socioeconomic status, English language learners, and students with disabilities.

Key findings in this part 1 report, which cover the 2009-10 academic year, show that students in foster care:

  • Constitute a subgroup that is distinct from low-income students
  • Were consistently among the lowest performing subgroups academically in math and English
  • Had the highest dropout rates and were less likely to graduate from high school than other students
  • Were more likely than the general population to be enrolled in the lowest performing schools
  • Were twice as likely to be designated with a disability, and five times more likely to be classified with an emotional disturbance
  • Were more likely to change schools during the school year

District Data Reports for students in foster care and The Invisible Achievement Gap Part 2 report are available.

Visit the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd for more information about the Center and its publications.

Resource Details

Product Information

Product #: CFTL-13-01
Copyright: 2013
Format: PDF
Pages: 116
Publisher: WestEd