States Must Support Foster Care Students Using Data

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States Must Support Foster Care Students Using Data

New recommendations focus on securely linking and sharing data to improve student success

Students in foster care need the coordinated help of both child welfare and education agencies to meet their education needs and ensure successful progression through high school and beyond. A new roadmap, developed by the Data Quality Campaign, the American Bar Association’s Legal Center for Foster Care and Education, and experts from states and organizations, guides states on how they can advance collaboration between K–12 and child welfare agencies to more effectively support those students.

“All students—and especially those in foster care—benefit from states securely linking data across systems to shine a light on the unique challenges and opportunities that affect their education,” said Aimee Rogstad Guidera, president and CEO of the Data Quality Campaign. “Everyone involved in a child’s education must have the best information to work together and help that child thrive.”

Students in foster care are often highly mobile and require public agencies to coordinate efforts to make smooth transitions between schools, identify educational needs, address attendance and discipline issues, ensure student engagement and growth, and more. To advance coordination, states should securely link key foster care and K–12 data to ensure that students in foster care are supported throughout their education with access to a full range of educational opportunities, including higher education. These high-quality, secure data linkages are more important than ever now that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to publicly report on the performance of foster care students and other mobile student populations.

The roadmap recommendations are focused on seven key areas:

  1. Shared vision: Establish up front a shared vision between the child welfare and education agencies to ensure that the agencies enter the data sharing agreement with an understanding of the unique role and perspective each has in providing information to better support students.
  2. Roles and responsibilities: Develop a structure in which to define the roles and responsibilities of each agency and ensure clear processes and a reasonable timeline for collecting and reporting data and establishing accountability for data quality and security.
  3. Capacity: Ensure that all agencies involved have the structure and staffing in place to effectively manage, analyze, and share linked data to take action to support students in foster care.
  4. Identification and data matching: Develop a deliberate process for securely linking data between foster care and K–12 data systems to ensure a sustainable linkage.
  5. Data quality: Develop a process to ensure that the linked data is accurate and useful. This process includes ensuring that all data elements and terminology are clearly and commonly defined.
  6. Data analysis, reporting, and use: Determine which entities have access to the linked data and how the linked data will be analyzed, reported, and used to answer critical policy questions and support students’ success.
  7. Privacy and security: Develop strong, multifaceted, and transparent processes to ensure that shared data is safeguarded and consistent with federal and state information sharing law.

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Contact: Katie Ida, kida@dataqualitycampaign.org, 202-393-4372