LOS ANGELES – Black youth in foster care have the largest chronic absenteeism rate in public schools in Los Angeles County, the highest representation in special education placement and disproportionate experience with punitive discipline in school, according to a study released Thursday by the UCLA Black Male Institute.
“From absenteeism and suspensions to graduation and college attendance, Black youth in foster care in Los Angeles County are having negative educational experiences resulting in outcomes that raise serious concerns for their future,” said Brianna Harvey, a researcher at the Black Male Institute and a Ph.D. student at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. “This data shines an important light on their experiences and makes clear that Black foster youth in public schools in Los Angeles County are being disenfranchised in their educational experiences.”
The study found that Black youth in foster care are twice as likely to be chronically absent as the average student in L.A. County — with the largest chronic absenteeism rate at 34%.
Black foster youth students have the highest representation in special education placement at 37%, are suspended at a rate of 17% compared with the overall county rate of 2%, and just 51% of Black foster students graduated on time during the 2018-19 school year, according to the study.
Only 12% of Black foster youth students were eligible to attend a UC or CSU campus upon completing high school in the same year, according to researchers.
Public schools in California educate more than 46,000 K-12 students who are in foster care, with about a third of them attending public schools in Los Angeles County, researchers said.
The research findings stem from an analysis conducted this fall by the UCLA Black Male Institute Research Lab of 2018-19 data from the California Department of Education.
“Our hope is that this research will provide educators and policymakers with new information about the educational experiences and challenges specific to Black youth in foster care,” said Tyrone C. Howard, a UCLA education professor and director of the UCLA Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families and the UCLA Black Male Institute. “Their needs too often go unseen and unanswered. That needs to change. Educators and policymakers need to act to ensure better educational opportunities and support for Black youth in foster care.”