When Moving Leads to Lower-Ranked Schools

When Moving Leads to Lower-Ranked Schools
Brett Theodos, Claudia Coulton, Amos Budde
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The Making Connections initiative is a community building effort, funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, to improve opportunities for children by strengthening their families and communities. The effort focused on a small number of neighborhoods affected by concentrated poverty and segregation. Using longitudinal data from the effort, researchers analyzed how moving residences or changing schools impacts education. The study revealed the interconnected nature of residential and school mobility within poor neighborhoods. While residential moving rates within these communities are high, the chances of moving to higher performing schools are low. According to the data, children who moved to schools of higher rank were often in families who relocated outside of their original school district. The study has implications for place-based and mobility initiatives. Policymakers focused on place-based efforts should be aware that children are not necessarily attending a nearby school and that children in the neighborhood school do not necessarily live in the community. Families in low-income neighborhoods who move often do so due to financial hardships, and their children move to lower-performing schools. Targeted investments in a place, therefore, may not reach children through both the community and the school. Further, efforts that begin as place-based initiatives may need to also focus on strengthening opportunities for the people who churn through low-income places. Since children only accessed higher-ranked schools when they moved out of their initial school district, this suggests that mobility programs with counseling and requirements focused on school quality can connect children with higher-performing schools.

Major findings:

  • Residential moving rates are high in the area, but on average children that switched schools did not attend higher ranking schools.
  • Families that experience hardship were more likely to move to lower performing schools.
  • Housing and financial instability often lead to children moving to poorer schools.
  • Residential movers switched to non-promotional schools the most, at a rate of 69 percent.
  • Children that did move to schools of a higher rank relocated outside of their original school district or had parents with more education than the other parents surveyed.
  • Parental dissatisfaction often led to switching schools, but moving to improved schools was not a high priority for parents. This indicates that parents may lack information on better schools or other unspecified factors.