New exemption in California allows migrant students to remain in schools for entire year
- School-age children in California’s migrant farmworker families now have the opportunity to remain in their schools for the entire school year instead of having to leave when the harvest is over, according to CALmatters.
- A bill signed by Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this year includes an exemption to the rule that migrant workers must move at least 50 miles away from a migrant farm labor center for at least three months in order to come back the following year. The law also reserves at least half of the housing units in a center for families who otherwise would have to drive at least 100 miles a day in order to keep their children in the same school.
- Assemblywoman Anna Caballero, a Democrat from the agricultural city of Salinas — sometimes referred to as the “salad bowl of the world” — pushed for the exemption, saying that the rule contributed to lower graduation rates among migrant and former migrant students.
While high student mobility is often associated with urban schools serving low-income students, those enrolling migrant students can see half or more of the students in their classrooms turn over during the school year. Research shows that frequent school transfers not only lead to negative outcomes among the students transferring, but can create a more unstable learning experience for the students who aren’t moving as well. A study led by Stephen Raudenbush at the University of Chicago, for example, showed that students attending a highly mobile school can be as much as one month behind in academic content for every year they are enrolled in that school, even if they never moved.
In addition to graduating at lower rates than their peers, migrant students can also experience frequent absenteeism, which research increasingly shows leads to negative academic outcomes, such as retention. "Because of their mobile lifestyle, migrant students often start school late and leave early," Ann Cranston-Gingras of the University of South Florida said in an Education World article.
The change in California’s policy is one approach other states with migrant populations can take to improve outcomes. Others include making better use of data to understand their academic needs. WestEd, a research organization based in San Francisco, developed and runs the Migrant Student Information Network, which allows educators to gain a complete picture of a student’s academic progress, no matter how many schools he or she has attended.
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