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Mobility's impact on achievement

By design, many new federal and state policies — most notably No Child Left Behind (NCLB) — encourage students in low performing schools to seek new options within their districts. Curiously, however, student mobility — defined as students moving from one school to another for reasons other than grade promotion — is often left out of discussions regarding the impact of NCLB and other school reform initiatives.

How does movement from school to school affect student learning? How does a student's movement from school to school affect other students, teachers and the student's old and new schools? Does student mobility cause poor student performance or is it merely symptomatic of poor performance?

Data from Chicago Public Schools can illustrate how student mobility and school performance might be related. Analysis is based on a cohort of first-graders who were enrolled in a Chicago public elementary school in the fall of 1999. These students were tracked for five years and were defined as "mobile" if they were enrolled in different schools in October and May of the same academic year.

Although this method of identifying mobile students is consistent with definitions of student mobility in most research, it likely results in missing some mobility. For example, students who leave a school after October, but return prior to May, are not counted as mobile because they would be enrolled in the same school at both points of observation.


Rosen, J. (2005). Mobility's impact on achievement. Illinois School Board Journal, Mar/Apr, Article 5.