Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership and Policy Studies


This dissertation explores the education of foster care children through the perspectives of classroom teachers. Numerous studies have found that foster youth experience depressed educational outcomes relative to their peers. A meta-analysis of such studies reported depressed educational outcomes in terms of standardized test scores, grade averages, retention rates, and suspension and expulsion rates (Scherr, 2007). Foster care is most often associated with maltreatment, which in turn has been linked to depressed educational outcomes (Runyan, 1985) and to insecure attachment (Howe, 1999). Attachment theory, which emphasizes the impact of relationships in early childhood on future relationships, informed this study. Purposeful sampling was used to identify classroom teachers in a rural Vermont high school that serves a large number of foster youth relative to its size. Participants were selected based on their high degree of experience with and perceived success in supporting students in foster care. In interviews, teachers were asked to describe distinguishing characteristics of foster youth as well as their relationships with peers and adults while at school. Teachers described several characteristics of foster youth, including the perceived impact of trauma on foster youth‟s ability to attend to school and school related tasks. Teachers also characterized intense relationships between foster youth and their peers, and between foster youth and adults at school. Participants also identified several strategies they believed to be effective in supporting this population, each of which emphasized the development of caring relationships between teachers and foster youth. Teachers shared concerns about the impact of frequent placement changes on the educational experiences of foster youth. Interviewees also noted that their support of foster youth was hampered by insufficient information about changes in students‟ status. Intersections between the characteristics of foster youth and selected literature on attachment theory and traumatic stress are explored in the interpretation of the findings. Finally, this study utilizes a feminist ethic of care to contextualize relationships between foster youth in schools and effective teacher strategies.