- from The Columbus Dispatch - "Transient students are education dilemma"
May 24, 2003
By William L. Bainbridge
In school systems across the country a major flaw exists
in the rationale that holds teachers and administrators accountable for
the progress of "all children’’ on standardized and state administered
Throughout the nation, one fact remains: It’s hard to teach
a parade. Put another way, schools are more likely to leave children
behind when students are no longer enrolled.
|Some students are moved from school to school simply because of the
economics of the rent coming due. Others move because of to divorce. Many
are wards of fostercare systems. Sometimes moving seems like a beneficial
thing. When a family moves because Mom or Dad got a better job, the
outcome can be positive for the parents, but the children may have
problems adjusting. Regardless of the reason, the impact of moves on
academic achievement and behavior of students cannot be overstated. These
children frequently bring to school more personal problems than other
Nearly a decade ago, the Journal of the American Medical
Association published a study conducted by Los Angeles and San
Francisco-based pediatricians and statisticians. They found that children
who move frequently are 35 percent more likely to fail a grade and 77
percent more likely to have behavioral problems than those whose families
stay in one place. Dr. David Wood of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los
Angeles and his colleagues surveyed nearly 10,000 school-age students
across the nation. The negative effects they found include what they
called psychoeducational dysfunction, delays in growth or development,
four or more behavioral problems per year, failure to graduate from high
school and increased rates of repeating grades.
sociodemographic characteristics were examined, but the bottom line is
that increased mobility of Americans hurts student achievement.
Numerous studies indicate poor families move 50 percent more
frequently than those above the poverty line. In these days of increased
finger-pointing and demands for accountability by teachers, administrators
and school boards, my colleagues and I have examined data from San
Bernardino, Calif., to Manchester, N.H., and Osceola County, Fla., to
Cheyenne, Wyo. We find no reason to dispute the medical community’s study.
Recently SchoolMatch was commissioned by Community Research
Partners to review administrative processes and procedures related to
mobile students in one of the more transient sections of the Columbus
Public School District. CRP is a partnership of United Way, city of
Columbus and the John Glenn Institute at Ohio State University. The
mobility study, which has many other facets, is being supported by a grant
from the Columbus Foundation.
Columbus not only has the highest
poverty rate in central Ohio, it has the area’s highest mobility rate.
School administrators frequently are frustrated by the transience of
students. Teachers and their leaders see an important link between high
mobility rates and some of the buildings with lower test scores.
One of the interim project reports has documented evidence that in
school year 2001-02, the mobility rate for elementary schools in the
Columbus district was a whopping 33.5 percent, while the Ohio average was
8.1 percent. This figure, called a "churning count,’’ is the total number
of school admissions and withdrawals divided by school population as of
Oct. 1. In layman’s terms, this means that, on average, one in three
students in the Columbus Public Schools changes schools each year.
CRP Executive Roberta F. Garber indicates the report, complete
with recommendations, should be released sometime before the beginning of
next school year.
Federal government leaders have demonstrated
some understanding of the mobility problem by ruling that schools should
not be held accountable for the test scores of students who have been in
the school less than 120 days in that school year. Nevertheless, one
Columbus teacher told me last week that she believed efforts by the
administration to create a common curriculum in areas such as reading are
helping, but when the mobility rate gets over 50 percent, the frustration
level among professional staff members escalates.
appear to be no higher priority than finding ways to help families and
social-service agencies understand that moving students from place to
place hinders their educational progress. We need to find ways to reduce
the disruption that results from frequent school changes.
is Distinguished Research Professor at the
University of Dayton and is President & Chief Executive Officer
of SchoolMatch®, a Columbus based educational auditing, research, data