- Students who move at least a mile away to a new home experience a greater and longer-lasting drop in math and English language arts performance than those who move a shorter distance — especially if that move involves changing schools. A short-distance move, however, often has a positive impact on school achievement, according to a new study examining student mobility in New York City.
- Conducted by researchers at Temple, Syracuse and New York universities and appearing in the American Educational Research Journal, the study examines students’ residential and school moves in grades 3-8 from a variety of angles. For example, students who move a long distance tend to enter higher-quality schools and better neighborhoods, but the stress associated with moving and the loss of “social capital” might explain why they lose ground academically..
- While the study focuses on New York City, where 85% of students in public schools live in rental housing, the authors note that the findings would likely be similar in other large urban districts. They recommend allowing students to remain in the same schools — and providing transportation — if possible. If not, schools can provide extra academic support for students more likely to experience the negative effects of a move and create efforts that help students and their families connect to their new school communities and “rebuild social networks.”
Research has long shown that changing schools, in general, is not good for a student’s academic career. But in schools with high student turnover, it can be difficult for school leaders, counselors and teachers to identify which students are more likely to struggle following a move. As researchers build on previous studies of student mobility by looking at how it affects different groups of students, their findings can better inform districts’ policies related to issues such as pupil transportation, identifying students for tutoring services, and working with those in the housing sector to help stabilize communities.
Schools can help alleviate and even prevent some of the stress that transferring students experience through transition procedures such as school tours, newcomers’ groups, an introductory meeting with a counselor, advisory programs and after-school clubs. As school data teams examine trends, routinely monitoring the performance of students who have recently changed neighborhoods or schools — especially if those students have other risk factors — can also help educators identify which students might need tutoring, mentoring or other types of support.