For five years, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) has tracked state legislation around the governance, protection, and use of education data. Our 2018 legislative review explored the many new ways in which states committed to putting data to work for students. This is the second in a series of blog posts highlighting notable state legislative activity.
Students in foster care and other highly-mobile students, like those experiencing homelessness or in military-connected families, may change schools multiple times, sometimes even within a single school year. For foster students this means losing between 4-6 months of academic progress each time they change schools. While school stability is crucial for successful learning, it’s often out of reach for America’s 430,000 children in the foster care system.
Changing schools can be disruptive enough, but when a student’s records are slow to be transferred to their new school or when schools and the other agencies or programs serving that student don’t have the information they need, teachers and support staff like guidance counselors spend weeks operating in the dark without a clear sense of what their student knows or needs. Schools sometimes cannot identify these students, let alone understand how to help them.
States, districts, and schools cannot support special populations if they do not have the data to understand the challenges they face. Fortunately, federal and state laws have started to address these issues. In our analysis of 2018 state legislation, we found evidence that states are using legislation to better understand and support highly-mobile students:
- Colorado passed a law that requires district-level youth liaisons to oversee the timely transfer of records when foster students change schools. This allows teachers to get a better understanding of where the student is coming from and what knowledge and skills they bring with them to the classroom. The law also requires the Department of Education and the Department of Human Services to share data on foster care students with each other to improve their supports.
- Indiana passed a law requiring the Department of Education and the Department of Child Services to share information with each other each month to help schools identify their foster students. The departments are also charged with annually reporting on outcomes for students in foster care and those experiencing homelessness and using that data to create plans to help both of these student groups.
- Tennessee passed a law requiring its state education agency to share data about the outcomes of the state’s homeless students with the House and Senate education committees to better inform their efforts to support these students.
- Wyoming passed legislation to collect information on the outcomes of military-connected students. Better information about this unique population can help decisionmakers better serve the nation’s 2 million military-connected students.
Policymakers and educators need better information to be able to better serve highly mobile students. Secure, high-quality data from the different agencies and offices serving these students can help provide school continuity and support programs. State legislators are making this happen by passing legislation that ensures data is used to shine a light on the complex barriers that highly-mobile students face.
Read the first blog in our series on 2018 state legislative activity – focusing on school safety – here. And stay tuned for more blogs on updates from the 2018 and 2019 legislative sessions!
This blog post is also available as a story on Medium.