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Longitudinal data system could help foster kids

The Oregon Chief Education Office is making progress on a longitudinal data system that will allow researchers to better track where high-risk students such as foster kids fall behind in their education.

JONATHAN HOUSE/PORTLAND TRIBUNE - Fowler Middle School pupils work on a new computers earlier this month.Eleven years in the making, the state Chief Education Office is beginning to make some progress in creating a statewide longitudinal educational data system that will eventually allow Oregon education agencies to communicate with each other.

The idea behind the system is to allow state researchers to look at where and which students are falling behind in the state. Oregon yields the third worst on-time graduation rate in the nation.

One area where the system may be particularly helpful is among foster youth, said Kevin George, child wellbeing program manager at the Oregon Department of Human Services.

George tracks foster youth's use of state programs to get into college. However, there is no organized system for seeing how foster youth do in K-12, let alone post-secondary education, where they are entitled to receive an education nearly free-of-charge for tuition and fees at Oregon colleges and universities.

A recent audit by the Oregon Secretary of State recommended that the Oregon Department of Education track the performance of foster youth, as they are group that particularly struggles.

The new longitudinal educational data system would enable the state to do just that.

Each student would receive a unique identification number, which researchers could use to look at how the student performed throughout their education, even if the student is highly mobile, said John Starr, the system's project director at the Oregon Chief Education Office.

George said when he first heard about the data system, he thought it would be a useful tool for tracking and helping foster children with their education.