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Volume 27, Number 4
July/August 2011

Integrated Data Systems Link Schools and Communities

Researchers combine school and non-school data to inform interventions and policy


The Youth Data Archive helped California caseworkers identify a critical time period when newly placed foster children need support.

A few years ago, Milbrey McLaughlin, professor emeritus of Stanford University’s School of Education, presided over a briefing with a group of concerned youth services workers in northern California. The group had convened to discuss the results of a study exploring the relationship between court dependency and school performance. Emotions in the room rose as the evidence was presented. Court-dependent youth were falling behind their nondependent peers in category after category. Children in foster care received lower standardized test scores than nondependent youth. They had higher rates of absence, of mobility, of grade retention. They were much more likely to be suspended or expelled.

The study also yielded more nuanced results. It showed that court-dependent children fared worst in school during the first six months of being in the system, when they were making the transition to foster care. Once they had adjusted, they seemed to do better. But if their stay in foster care went on for more than two years, performance declined again.

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