Educational Specialists Boost Foster Youth Achievement in Washington State

TreehouseWashington state-based foster youth support agency Treehouse just released their recent Semester 1 Report Card, which illustrates the current state of their “Graduation Success” program, noting specifically the increase in course performance for foster youth participants.

The number of students achieving “Course performance,” which means a youth did not fail any courses, rose from 34 percent to 61 percent within the last year.

Graduation Success provides foster youth with one-on-one Treehouse Education Specialists, to work with middle and high school foster students on graduating and enrolling in higher institutions. The main idea behind the program is to bring up the foster youth graduation rate to that similar to their non-foster youth peers in King County.

“We’re providing education planning, coaching, and support to build youth investment and engagement to help pave the way to high school graduation for them and build brighter futures,” said Sarah Kurtzman, marketing and communications manager at Treehouse.

The indicators to measure success, named “ABC Plus”, are attendance, behavior, and course performance. The “plus” section involves nurturing involvement outside of school, and promoting rigorous planning and commitment aspirations.

Success in these indicators will lead to success in their education up until high school graduation and ideally beyond, said Treehouse CEO Janis Avery, in an e-mail to the Chronicle of Social Change.

The analysis stage, which will be done to figure out the cause for the increase in course performance within the last year, has just started. While there hasn’t been an exact reason identified for the increase, there are some ideas as to what may be a factor.

“There’s been an increase in staff and youth served,” Kurtzman said, “But there’s also been a tremendous amount of in-school mentors that have been placed. Our presence in day-to-day life has increased.”

Daniel Heimpel, Publisher of The Chronicle of Social Change, speaks to Janis Avery about Treehouse.

Along with the educational advocacy and personal support, Treehouse provides clothing, school supplies, and funds for extracurricular activities.

Treehouse has also increased its presence in schools and districts in King County by bringing in more education specialists and in-school mentors to the area. They can now be found in 133 different schools in the county.

“The program is meant to help them build their own self-determination and ability to self-advocate,” Kurtzman said. “We want them to take the skills they learn from the program and be able to thrive in the future.”

In 2013, we spoke to Avery and made a video on Treehouse about the Washington State Institute for Public Policy report in which providing education advocates for foster youth did not show a significant increase in GPA or graduation rates.

“The Treehouse semester report card offers results on the 500 plus foster youth we are serving in the Graduation Success program in King County, and while it is certainly not representative of the state like the WSIIP report, the improvement we are seeing in course performance is looking very promising,” Kurtzman said, “We can’t make any definitive claims or conclusions until we have fully analyzed the data over the next year.”

Victor Valle is a reporter at The Chronicle of Social Change.

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