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Researcher-Practitioner Partnerships in Education Research


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FY Awards

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Students in Foster Care: The Relationship between Mobility and Educational Outcomes

Year: 2015
Name of Institution:
University of Northern Colorado
Goal: Researcher-Practitioner Partnership
Principal Investigator:
Clemens, Elysia
Award Amount: $378,019
Award Period: 2 years (7/1/15-6/30/17)
Award Number: R305H150007


Co-Principal Investigator: Judith Martinez (Colorado Department of Education)

Partner Institution: Colorado Department of Education, Colorado Department of Human Services, the State Court Administrator's Office, Mile High United Way, and Morgridge Family Foundation

Purpose: Across the United States, federal and state policies are encouraging collaborations between human services and education agencies to improve the education outcomes for students who are in foster care. In Colorado, only 27.5 percent of students in foster care graduated from high school on time in 2012–13, and the gap between the graduation rates of students in foster care and other students is steadily increasing. In this project, researchers from the University of Northern Colorado will partner with the Colorado Department of Education, the Colorado Department of Human Services and others to:

  • track the residential and educational stability of Colorado students in foster care;
  • document the academic outcomes of Colorado students in foster care;
  • identify how changes in foster care placement and school stability are related to each other, and ultimately, to student academic achievement.

The findings of the project will inform policy and practice to support the educational outcomes of students in foster care.

Partnership Activities: This partnership expands on an existing data use agreement between the Colorado Department of Education and the Colorado Department of Human Services to match foster care and education data records for all public school students who had a foster care placement since July 1, 2007. Through the partnership project, the partners will continue to align its education and human services data systems in order to examine the outcomes of foster care youth. Researchers will first use the matched data to create an initial picture of the general school mobility, academic achievement and progress through the K–12 system of students in foster care. Next, they will establish metrics for capturing school changes that are associated with foster placement changes. Finally, researchers will use regression analyses to identify how the interaction between residential stability and school stability relate to student achievement. The partnership will use these research results to develop benchmarks, improve accountability reporting, and inform policy and future research.

Population/Sample: Since July 2007, Colorado has had more than 23,000 public school students who have had at least one out-of home placement through the foster care systems. Researchers will use a joint human-services/education database to track the progress of foster care students through the K–12 education system. For this study, the dataset will include all Colorado youth ages 5–21 who experienced one or more foster care placements between 2007–08 and 2013–14 and were enrolled in a Colorado public school. Researchers will have access to students' achievement on state-wide end-of-grade assessments, grade retention, high school graduation, foster care placement, and school mobility.

Project Website:


Nongovernment report, issue brief, or practice guide

Clemens, E. V. (2015). Summary of Transportation-Relevant Foster Care School Mobility. University of Northern Colorado.

Clemens, E.V. (2014). Graduation and Dropout Rates for Colorado Students in Foster Care: 5–Year Trend Analysis (2007–08 to 2011–12). University of Northern Colorado.

Clemens, E.V. (2014). Youth Perspectives on the Colorado Foster Care Education Data. Univerity of Northern Colorado.

Clemens, E.V. (2015). Summary of Foster Care Students in Special Education School Mobility. University of Northern Colorado.

Clemens, E.V., and Sheesley, A.P. (2016). Every Transition Counts: Educational Stability of Colorado's Students in Foster Care, 2007–08 TO 2013–14. University of Northern Colorado.