High Student Turnover and Switching Schools Affect Academic Outcomes

High Student Turnover and Switching Schools Affect Academic Outcomes
Whitney A. LeBoeuf, John W. Fantuzzo
Applied Developmental Science
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A new school does not guarantee improved educational opportunities for most students. The negative association between early school mobility and academic achievement is well researched and is even more consequential for students moving within large urban districts rather than between. A University of Pennsylvania study adds to the evidence that school mobility can impede educational outcomes. The researchers investigated the association between intradistrict school mobility and reading achievement in the year following a move (“concurrent”), after multiple moves over time (“cumulative”), and for students in general in a highly mobile classroom (“contextual”).

This study used integrated longitudinal data from 13,424 third-graders in the School District of Philadelphia during the 2005–06 academic year to assess the relationship between concurrent, cumulative, and contextual intradistrict school mobility and early reading achievement. All the third-graders in the study had been enrolled in the school district during the prior three school years.

Key findings

  • Students with concurrent moves had lower reading achievement scores. A recent school move was equally as harmful in first grade as it was in third grade. The negative relationship between concurrent intradistrict school mobility and reading achievement did not strengthen or diminish over time.
  • Cumulative intradistrict school mobility was associated with worse reading achievement. Average student reading achievement decreased 4.43 points with one school move, 6.75 points with two moves, and 6.96 points with three moves.
  • Contextual mobility was associated with poor reading achievement, and as students got older, the negative consequences of higher rates of peer turnover worsened. A 10 percent increase in student turnover rates was associated with a 2.79-point decrease in reading achievement in third grade. In schools with a high turnover rate, reading scores by third grade were an entire year (11.16 points) lower than the reading achievement in schools with no turnover.
  • Intradistrict school moves are common. Nearly one in five students experienced a school move before the end of each school year. Nearly 40 percent of students experienced at least one move before the end of third grade: 26.3 percent experienced one move, 8.6 percent experienced two moves, and 4.4 percent experienced a move all three years.

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