Connecticut’s Invisible Opportunity Gap: Academic Challenges Facing Children and Youth in Foster Care

Back • Publication Date: September 22nd, 2014

Authors: Kenneth Feder

Downloads: Download #1 Download #2

This report documents that Connecticut children in foster care lag their peers academically. 

National research has shown that when children in foster care fall behind in school, their academic woes follow them into adulthood, and they struggle to find gainful employment. To date, however, there has been no thorough examination of the academic history of Connecticut children in foster care.

The report documents the achievement gap between Connecticut students in foster care and their peers, and identifies several barriers that may impede these students’ opportunity to succeed in school. Among the key findings:

  • Children in foster care perform below their peers on standardized testing.  In the 2012-2013 school year, in every tested subject, students in foster care were less likely to receive a score of Proficient on standardized tests than the average Connecticut student.
  • Students in foster care are more likely to attend schools with below-average performance on standardized tests. The majority of children in foster care, 56%, attended one of Connecticut’s Alliance Districts (the 30 school districts with the lowest average standardized test scores). This contrasts with the 39% of all Connecticut students who attended Alliance Districts statewide.
  • Children in DCF care were four times more likely than the average Connecticut student to have an identified special education need (48% vs. 12%).
  • DCF-involved children were more than twice as likely as the average Connecticut student to have missed more than one out of every 10 days of school (24% vs. 11%). 
  • Children in foster care were more than three times more likely to receive an in-school suspension, and nearly six times more likely to receive an out-of-school suspension, than the average Connecticut student.

The report recommends several evidence-based steps that Connecticut policymakers should take to help students in foster have a better experience in school.