Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report - S17
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tation for the student to remain at his current school, even
though it meant a 90-minute bus ride to and from a relative's house each day. "The student was willing to do it, and
we were there to provide social and emotional support," until
the student graduated, she said.
The support has dramatically improved foster students'
graduation rate in the state. The five-year graduation rate
for foster students participating in Treehouse is 89 percent,
7 percent higher than the overall graduation rate statewide
and 40 percentage points higher than the state graduation
rate for foster students.
Sometimes, Griffin said, advocates also have to persuade
schools to look differently at a student with mediocre grades
or behavior problems. "That happens quite a bit, because
the trauma and instability they experience ... can sometimes
mask the academic ability they have," she said.
Today, for example, Jordon Marshelle Barrett has earned
mostly A's in her junior and senior years at Kentridge High
School in Kent, Wash. But her grades were in a tailspin in
10th grade at a prior school, when she left one foster placement and ended up being shuttled among seven shelters and
group homes, losing months of class in the process. Finally,
with help from a new foster family and from Humes, she
transferred to the more academically rigorous Kentridge and
retook her sophomore classes, but worried that the repeated
grade would be a black mark on her college applications.
Humes helped Barrett get a meeting with her preferred
college, the University of Washington, Tacoma, to explain her
transcript and press her determination to study psychology
and law, to eventually become a homicide detective.
"Even though [Humes] was sick, she was texting me before the meeting: Ok, remember to tell them this and this ..."
Barrett said. "Marissa took the time to really learn me and
connect with me. ... Going through the shelters, you feel like
you have nobody; it's really lonely. ... Not only did Treehouse
help me with material things ... they helped me by giving me
somebody I can talk to."
RESPONSE TO TRAUMA
There has been very little study of gifted students in foster care, but researchers have looked at how intellectually
advanced students respond to mobility, family instability,
Jean Peterson, a Purdue University education professor
emerita who for the past 25 years has tracked academic and
emotional changes among gifted students who experienced
trauma, found that intellectually advanced students who
experienced abuse were at a higher risk of post-traumatic
A former psychologist at the Children's Medical Center in
Dayton, Ohio, Webb agreed. Common traits of giftedness,
such as questioning adults and showing heightened sensitivity, can turn negative in children who have unstable or abusive home lives, he said.
"You have a class discussion, and the teacher says, 'Tell
me about your family.' The student thinks, 'Which family?'
Being in a foster system implies by definition that there is
some family disruption. You can expect quite a reaction to
this-which may or may not be verbalized," Webb said.
Garcia, the foster child who is now a college mentor for
foster students, agreed, noting that few of his teachers
or peers knew about his home situation, even though he
changed placements 10 times in four years. "I feel like there's
a barrier in understanding," he said. "You might have to talk
in school about a lot of things you might not have really
worked through, and it can be kind of retriggering, retraumatizing."
Both Peterson and Garcia said being in foster care can also
heighten academic stress and the perfectionism that gifted
students often struggle with. Garcia recalled staying up late to
study for a test the next day in U.S. history. "I passed out and
woke up covered in hives from the stress," he said. "I think
stress management is one of the biggest challenges-and
Better coordination among education systems, social services, and other child-welfare agencies could help, researchers and advocates say, but personal connections with even
one or two adults in school who understand and encourage a student's academic potential can greatly improve his
achievement and success long term.
"A lot of kids in the system don't have a sense of themselves as 'bright.' Their intelligence might be put to simply
surviving-getting groceries, taking care of younger siblings," said Peterson, a co-author of the 2018 book CounselGOE%GăUCB1UVBCOUT. "Educators need to point out to them, 'You
have not had the easiest life, but look at all you've done.' " ■
sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
Jordon Marshelle Barrett,
a senior at Kentridge High
School in Kent, Wash.,
missed weeks of classes
when her foster placement
changed seven times in
her 10th grade year. The
Treehouse program, an
advocacy program for
foster students, helped her
transfer to an
academically rigorous high
school and paid for a
driver's education course
so she could get her
driver's license, easing her
long commutes to school
and work. Her grades have
recovered and she is
applying to colleges.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - March 7, 2018 - Special Report
Education Week - March 7, 2018
Yzmar Roman, an 11th grader in Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Emotional Needs of Students, Educators Crucial to Puerto Rico’s School Recovery
School Districts Weigh Security After Shooting
Is It Time for a Focus on Civics Education?
Immigrants Thrive In Canadian Schools
News in Brief
DACA Continues for Now, as Does Uncertainty for ‘Dreamers’
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: Schools Teach ‘Cyber Hygiene’ to Prevent Internet Attacks
States Confront Range of Hurdles To Swift Action on School Security
Teachers With Gun Training Wary of Trump’s Proposal
Eyes on Pearson as It Moves to Sell Curriculum Business
Outside Supreme Court, Union Supporters, Detractors Face Off
Case Over Union Fees Poised on Knife’s Edge
DeVos Eyeing School Choice As Option for Military Families
Q&A with nadine burke harris: In the Wake of Adversity, a Pediatrician’s Guidance
Olga Acosta Price & Wendy Ellis: Schools Shouldn’t Tackle Trauma Alone
Collected responses: After Parkland, Where Do We Go From Here?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Gregg Behr: The 2020 Census: Every Child Counts
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