Students who change schools during the year do less well on tests and are more likely to be discipline problems, according to an analysis of data for public school students in Louisiana. The study showed that students who switched schools more frequently had the lowest test scores and the highest suspension rates.
In an article published in the Journal of Educational Research (January/February 2006) Necati Engec of South Carolina State says “poverty alone does not cause school failure or individual failure”. Student and family mobility plays a role in poor performance, he says, recommending that educators intervene by informing parents of the negative effects of moving and by making “timely and informed judgments about services for mobile students.”
In his study of 728,000 Louisiana schoolchildren during the 1998-1999 school year, Engec examined performance scores on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) achievement test and suspension rates for mobile and non mobile students.
He found that performance on tests decreased as the number of moves increased. Over 7% of students moved within the school year in this study Mobility rates within the school year were highest in grades K 2.
Students who moved only once performed significantly better than those who moved twice. As the number of moves increased, performance decreased.
Suspensions from school followed a similar pattern. The in-school suspension rate (14.7%) was highest for students who enrolled in schools four or more times during the school year and lowest (7.3%) for students who did not change schools. The number of out of school suspensions also grew significantly the more a student changed schools, ranging from 9.5% for students who changed schools once to 23% for students who moved more than four times.
As well as moves within the school year, Engec also analyzed the effect of moves from year to year. A total of 88,756 or 12.7% of children in the study made “optional” moves from one school to another at the end of a grade. These children also had lower scores on the ITBS than non mobile children (60.96 vs. 75.18).
Engec even found a depressed effect on scores from CCobligatory moves when children had to change schools to move up to the next grade level. Children who changed schools to move up to the next grade averaged scores of 72.30 vs. 75.18 for non mobile students. CcSpecifically, the unit school (K 12) that restricts mobility appears to have a positive relationship with student academic performanc ” he writes.
The February 2006 issue of Educational Leadership also focuses on the harmful effects of “excessive mobility”, citing a 1994 General Accounting Office study reporting that by the end of third grade one of six children in the United States had attended three or more schools.
Chester Hartman, director of research at the Poverty & Race Research Action Council, Washington, D.C, highlights several models to help excessively mobile students. Among them: Moffett Elementary School in Los Angeles, which has created “on atmosphere and culture sensitive to the needs of transferring students.” The school provided extra help and attention to these students by connecting them with counselors, involving parents, assessing special needs, and assigning a “student ambassador” to help them negotiate the first weeks of school.
The University of Chicago’s Staying
Put project produces a brochure, “If you move . . ,” which cautions parents about the dangers of changing schools and suggests alternatives. In Chicago, children can complete the school year without transfer, although bus service may not be provided, and high school students can continue to attend their original school until they graduate.
For children of migrant workers, the federal Migrant Education program provides an electronic interstate record transfer system, national distance learning programs, and a laptop computer project that helps secondary school migrant students to take advantage of online mentoring.
Hartman stresses another side effect of excessive mobility. “Excessive student mobility harms stable students as well by slowing down the pace of the curriculum and creating emotional disturbances stemming from the sudden disappearance of classmates and friends.” Hart man cites a California study showing average test scores for stable students were significantly lower in high schools with high mobility rates.
“Relationship Between Mobility and Student Pefortnance and Behavior” The Jounal of Educational Research Volume 99, Number 3, Januay/Februay 2006 Pp. 167-178 and “Students on the Move” Educational Leadership Volume 63 Number 5 February 2006 pp. 20-24.
Published in ERN February 2006 Volume 19 Number 2