Most states aren't tracking student mobility rates
- Student who frequently change schools don’t fully benefit from initiatives designed to improve student performance; however, more than have of states in the U.S. don’t collect or track data on student mobility and those that do often define the issue differently, making comparisons difficult, Chalkbeat reports.
- In Detroit, one out of every three elementary school students changes schools every year, while in Milwaukee, one in every four students switches schools. Statistics like these run true in many high-poverty communities across the nation and negatively affect test scores, behavioral issues, and graduation rates.
- Because the issue is not tracked consistently across states, it is harder for educators and lawmakers to craft solutions and policies that will effectively address the issue, the article says.
Student mobility and transience is an issue that affects school performance but is discussed less often than many other issues in education. One reason for this is the lack of consistent tracking of the issue which results in a lack of comparative data. However, high rates of student mobility can derail reform efforts and are worth examination.
School transitions can occur for many reasons. Though some are caused by upward mobility of the family through a job transfer or promotion, often the reasons are more negative. Families in poverty may move because they lose their housing; parents' divorce and being placed into foster care can also cause a shift in housing. The increase in school choice options also makes it easier for parents to move students from school to school, seeking out a better option for their child.
The result often means a negative impact on test scores for students and an increase in the “chaos factor” at schools. In the early education years, this often manifests as a problem with student development of literacy skills, while in adolescent years, such transitions can mean the loss of relationships and support systems needed to encourage a student through to graduation. In fact, some studies suggest that switching schools, even for ordinary reasons such as transitioning to middle or high school, has a negative impact on student performance.
Many of these mobility issues, such as those related to housing are not easily addressed by schools, though discussions about the impact may help lawmakers and communities increase their support for housing initiatives that lead to affordable home ownership and investment in a community. However, schools can also look at other options to address school mobility.
One of these is increasing the options for providing transportation to students to their school of origin, a strategy that is required for students meeting the federal definition of homelessness. Another is creating local policies that make it easier for students to remain in the own school of origin even if parents move outside a school attendance zone. Some schools are also seeking ways so better align their curriculum across a district so that students who moves to another school in the district can remain on track academically. Educating parents about the risks of switching schools may also reduce the problem in the long run.