Topeka Capital-Journal, Aug. 25, 2020 – Click for the original article
A donation of 100 Chromebooks to Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas will help provide some stability for students in foster care.
The Children’s Circus Project, a Texas-based organization that typically funds circus trips for families, focused this year on providing laptops for children in need and donated 100 Chromebooks, valued at about $38,240, to JAG-K. JAG-K is a secondary-school program that looks to prepare vulnerable students for success after high school.
JAG-K will distribute those devices to the approximately 100 foster care students in its Transition Services program, which JAG-K is piloting as an alternative for foster care students who may not be able to remain at a single foster care home or participate in a regular JAG-K classroom for long, said Chuck Knapp, JAG-K president and CEO.
“Mobility is a big challenge, and the inconsistencies, especially if you’re going from one kind of learning environment to another,” Knapp said. “As difficult as it is for a student who is going to be in a school district for a whole year, imagine what it’s like for a student who may have four, five or six placements in a semester.
“That’s where we come in, and we provide some consistency. Even though they may have multiple placements in a year, they’ll still have someone from JAG-K coming alongside them, helping them through each of those transitions.”
Even in a regular school year, students in foster care see a lot of adversity, Knapp said. Add to that possible inconsistencies between learning models as districts try to navigate the uncertainties of the pandemic, and foster care students are at an even higher risk of falling behind their peers.
Foster care students in 78 JAG-K programs and classes across the state typically graduate at a rate of 95%, much higher than the 45% statewide average for foster care children who age out of the system, Knapp said.
“Students have a much better chance of graduating if they’re in a stable environment or if they have systems in place that can help them, because with each placement, they’re losing four to six months of academic progress,” Knapp said.
At the very least, the laptops will give students reliable access to any credit recovery programs they might need to complete when they move between districts, he said.
Through its regular program, JAG-K serves about 280 students in the Topeka area across four programs for Topeka Unified School District 501, two at Shawnee Heights USD 450 and one at Seaman USD 345. In the Topeka area, the Transition Services program serves about 25 students, who will each receive Chromebooks, Knapp said.
As Transition Services program students receive permanent placements, Knapp said, the program will allow the students to keep those laptops and continue to provide devices to new students who enter the program.
“Everyone is trying to do the best they can,” he said. “We have school districts that are doing it many different ways, but we’re trying to be good partners.”