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This document is part of AASA’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation resources. The full set of resources is available at aasa.org/AASAESSA.aspx.

New Requirements for Educating Students in Foster Care

There are approximately 260,000 children in foster care currently in the K-12 school system. National research shows that children in foster care are at high risk of dropping out of school and are unlikely to attend or graduate from college. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), school districts have a host of new responsibilities for educating students who are in the foster care system.

“Transportation Procedures for Students in Foster Care,” that AASA produced in coordination with the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, highlights the provisions in ESSA for LEAs to consider around transporting students in foster care to/from school and specifically, the LEA obligation to pay for transportation. In contrast, this document highlights other requirements in ESSA for students in foster care.

Changes in Enrollment and School of Origin

Under ESSA, children in foster care have the right to remain in their school of origin, similar to homeless students. Specifically, a child can remain in their school of origin unless a determination is made that it is not in the child’s best interest to attend the school of origin. This determination is based on all factors relating to the child’s best interest, but ESSA specifies that it must include consideration of the appropriateness of the current educational setting as well as the student’s proximity to the school. If it is determined that a child’s school of origin is not in their best interest, the child must be immediately enrolled in a new school even if he/she is unable to produce records normally required for enrollment. In addition, the enrolling school must immediately contact the school last attended by the child to obtain relevant academic and other records.

LEA Point-of-Contact for Child Welfare Agencies

The Fostering Connection Act, a law that was enacted in 2008, required that every child welfare agency coordinate with LEAs to improve educational stability for students in foster care. Ideally, this means that a child welfare agency has a designated point-of-contact for working with one or more LEAs to ensure immediate enrollment, record transfers, and appropriate educational placements for students. Under ESSA, when a child welfare agency notifies the LEA that it has a point-of-contact for the education of children in foster care, the LEA is now required to designate someone who is a point-of-contact for the child welfare agency. There are no other specific responsibilities for the point-of-contact.

Data Disaggregation

Districts must now disaggregate academic achievement of students in foster care. This data will be included in the State report card and must include assessment results as well as information on high school graduation rates, including the four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate, and, at the state’s discretion, the extended-year adjusted cohort rate.