School Mobility and Achievement: Longitudinal Findings from an Urban Cohort.

Judy A. Temple and Arthur J. Reynolds


This study estimates the effects of school mobility on reading and math achievement for 1,087 low-income black children in the Chicago Longitudinal Study. Between kindergarten and grade 7, 73% of the students changed schools at least once and 21% changed school three or more times. Significant predictors of the number of moves included prior achievement, the number of years of preschool participation in an education intervention program, and parent education. Although the students who changed schools frequently between kindergarten and grade 7 performed approximately one year behind their nonmobile peers on reading and mathematics achievement tests taken at the end of 7th grade, the findings of the study suggest that this result greatly overestimates the negative effects of mobility. We found that only half of the one-year 7th grade achievement difference between frequently-mobile and nonmobile students is due to mobility. The remaining 6 months achievement difference is due to the fact that the mobile students were lower achieving even before they started to change schools. Our results suggest that the availability of longitudinal data on achievement is crucial for obtaining accurate estimates of the effects of school mobility on student achievement. The key substantive finding was that frequent school mobility rather than mobility per se placed children most at risk of school underachievement. Interventions are needed to prevent both the occurrence and the negative consequences of this risk.

Journal of School Psychology, 37(4), 355-377.