School mobility and students with emotional disturbance
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Title: School mobility and students with emotional disturbance
Series Title: Malmgren, K. W., & Gagnon, J. C. (2005). School mobility and students with emotional disturbance. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 14, 301-314.
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Creator: Gagnon, Joseph
Abstract: We examined the school mobility of a cross-sectional sample of 70 secondary-age youth with emotional disturbance (ED). Data were collected through an archival review of school records. Students’ school mobility histories were examined in terms of the overall number of schools attended in the elementary school years, as well as the timing of the moves that were made. Findings indicate that sample students experienced high rates of school mobility with 66% having changed schools at least once by the end of 2nd grade and 89% having changed schools at least once by the end of 5th grade. Strategies for minimizing school mobility and the impact of high rates of school mobility are reviewed.
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Journal of Ckhild arnd Family Studies, Vol. 14, No. 2, Jurne 2005 (� 2005), pp. 299 312
DOI: 10.1007/sl0826-005-5058-0

School Mobility and Students with
Emotional Disturbance

Kimber W. Malmgren, Ph.D.1,3 and Joseph C. Gagnon, Ph.D.2

We examined the school mobility of a cross-sectional sample of 70 secondary-age
youth with emotional . , ,. (ED). Data were collected through an archival
review of school records. Students' school mobility histories were examined in
terms of the overall number of schools attended in the elementary school years,
as well as the timing of the moves that were made. I .. .' . . . that sample
students experienced high rates of school mobility with - * having changed
schools at least once by the end of 2nd grade and 89% having changed schools at
least once by the end of 5th grade. Strategies for minimizing school mobility and
the impact of high rates of school mobility are reviewed.
KEY WORDS: mobility; school mobility; emotional disturbance.

Students who receive special education services for emotional disturbance
(ED) commonly experience negative long-term outcomes. For example, these
students exit school without earning a diploma at higher rates than any disability
category (i.e., 50.6%, U.S. Department of Education, 2001). These individuals
are also disproportionately represented in the juvenile justice system (Greenbaum
et al., 1996) and, at least for those who have dropped out of school, highly likely
to be arrested or incarcerated as young adults (Wagner, 1995). Even for students
with ED who have successfully navigated completion of high school, research has
documented low rates of post-secondary school attendance (Malmgren, Edgar, &
Neel, 1998) and frequent job changes (Hagner, Cheney, & Malloy, 1999).

1Assistant Professor, Department of Rehabilitation Psychology and Special Education, University of
Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI.
2 Assistant Professor, Graduate School of Education, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.
3Correspondence should be directed to Kimber W. Malmgren, Rehabilitation Psychology and Spe-
cial Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 432 N. Murray St., Madison, WI 53706; e-mail:


1062-1024/05/0600-0299/0 � 2005 Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.

Malmgren and Gagnon

While the existence of these negative outcomes is well documented, the
amount of attention paid to the path toward these outcomes has been less consis-
tent, with researchers in a variety of fields exploring different conceptualizations
and constructs. In the field of developmental psychology, for example, risk and
protective factors mediating the path between childhood behavior problems and
later negative outcomes is a primary interest (e.g., Buchanan, Flouri, & Brinke,
2002; Ladd & Burgess, 2001; White, Bates, & Buyske, 2001). Research aimed
at better understanding causal pathways to childhood behavior problems and ex-
tending from childhood behavior problems to subsequent negative outcomes has
investigated factors including child maltreatment, parental attachment, and school
engagement. Drawing on the work of researchers from a wide range of disciplines,
it can be concluded that the negative outcomes experienced by youth with ED are
attributable to a complex web of causal and mediating factors. One notable factor
that has not garnered much attention in education circles is the level of school
mobility experienced by students with ED.
For youth in general, high rates of school mobility are linked to disengage-
ment from school and, overall, to poor outcomes (Temple & Reynolds, 2000).
However, school mobility alone may not lead directly to poor outcomes. In some
cases, school mobility has even been linked to positive outcomes. For example, a
study of school mobility in Baltimore found that middle-class Caucasian students
who moved out of the city school system experienced more positive educational
outcomes than similar students who were not mobile (Alexander, Entwisle, &
Dauber, 1996). Similarly, in the case of military families, mobility is not corre-
lated with negative outcomes (Marchant & Medway, 1987). In general, however,
frequent school moves in the elementary years are associated with a host of nega-
tive outcomes such as poor school achievement (Audette, Algozzine, & Warden,
1993; Kerbow, 1996; Wood, Halfon, Scarlata, Newacheck, & Nessim, 1993) and
grade retention (U.S. General Accounting Office [GAO], 1994; Wood et al.). Fre-
quent moves in elementary school have also been associated with the occurrence
of multiple behavioral problems (Wood et al.) and increased levels of violent
behavior displayed in high school (Ellickson & McGuigan, 2000).
More specifically, Dauber, Alexander and Entwisle (1993) reported poorer
outcomes for students who switched schools early in the primary years compared
to students who switched schools later. Also emphasizing the particular importance
of early childhood mobility, Haveman, Wolfe, and Spaulding (1991) reported that
mobility experienced between the ages 4-7 years had a more negative impact
on high school graduation status than mobility experienced in later elementary
The fact that school mobility has been associated with varying outcomes
makes it clear that school mobility affects students differentially. Indeed, re-
searchers have identified factors that appear to mitigate the effects of school mo-
bility. For example, one national study of school and residential mobility found that
even one residential move had a negative effect on both academic and behavioral

School Mobility

measures of school success only for children who did not live with both biological
parents (Tucker, Marx, & Long, 1998). Mobility is also thought to have a more
negative effect on children living in poverty than on their more affluent peers
(Eckenrode, Rowe, Laird, & Brathwaite, 1995).
Another factor to consider in any study of school mobility is the fact that
all children are not equally likely to experience high rates of mobility. Children
who are Limited English Proficient (LEP), maltreated, from families considered
low-income and children who attend schools characterized as "inner-city" are
more likely to experience high rates of school mobility (Eckenrode et al., 1995;
U.S. GAO, 1994). Additionally, low school performance (as measured by grade
point average), behavior problems, high rates of absenteeism, and low education
expectations all predict high rates of school mobility when family structure and
family income level are controlled (Lee & Burkam, 1992; Rumberger & Larsen,
Students with ED are disproportionately likely to exhibit many of these
same traits that have been linked to high rates of school mobility. For example,
Mattison, Spitznagel, and Felix (1998) reported that over half of students with
ED in their study had experienced abuse. Findings from a national survey of
teachers indicated that 38% of students labeled ED were estimated to have been
physically or sexually abused and 41% neglected (Oseroff, Oseroff, WC\IliI'I &
Gessner, 1999). Students with ED are also more likely to live in poverty than
students in the general population (Wagner, 1995). Taken together, this research
suggests that many of the traits and characteristics associated with students with
ED (e.g., living in poverty, experiencing maltreatment, demonstrating early aca-
demic and behavior problems), are the very traits associated with high rates of
school mobility. Furthermore, those same traits frequently exhibited by students
with ED may exacerbate the negative effects of school mobility when elevated
rates of mobility do occur. For these reasons, an empirical investigation was un-
dertaken of the school mobility rates experienced by a purposive sample of youth
with ED.
We addressed three issues in this study: (a) number of school moves; (b) tim-
ing of school moves; and (c) comparison of school mobility across youth character-
istics. In addition, in-depth histories are provided for three students in the sample
with high rates of mobility. These summaries illustrate the complex situations and
factors related to school mobility.



Archival record reviews were conducted at the participating school district's
administrative offices. Case files were provided to the researchers by school district

Malmgren and Gagnon

personnel and assigned project ID numbers to maintain confidentiality during data
collection. Data for this study were collected as part of a larger investigation of
interagency collaboration (see Malmgren & Meisel, 2002).
The sample was selected from a pool of all secondary students (i.e., students
enrolled in grades 9-12) currently receiving special education services for ED
who were also known to the district's child welfare and juvenile justice agencies.
Students in the sample had: (a) experienced abuse or neglect, or had been placed
out-of-home by the state sometime prior to the time of data collection; and (b) had
been arrested, detained, or committed to a juvenile justice facility at least once prior
to data collection. Furthermore, in order to be included in the sample, the students
were required to have complete school attendance records from the beginning of
Kindergarten through the end of second grade. These restrictions led to a final
selected sample of 70 students.
The sample was comprised of 37% (n = 26) African American, 51% (n = 36)
Caucasian, and 11% (n = 8) Hispanic youth. The proportions of Caucasian and
Hispanic youth in the sample were not significantly different from their propor-
tions in the county's school enrollment population. However, African American
youth were significantly overrepresented in comparison to their representation in
the county's school-age population (z = 4.91, p < .001). This finding is consis-
tent with the overrepresentation of African American youth in the population of
students with ED nationally (U.S. Department of Education, 2002). With regard
to gender, the sample was made up of 81% male participants (n = 57). While fe-
male students were clearly underrepresented, the gender proportion of the sample
was consistent with the national population of students receiving services for ED
(U.S. Department of Education). The mean age of the youth in the sample was
16.5 years.
Approximately one-third of the sample (i.e., 35%, n = 24) had been retained
in grade at least once during their academic careers, with 16% of the sample (n =
10) having been retained some time during elementary school (i.e., kindergarten
through 5th grade). The average age at which students in the sample were first
classified as having a disability was 9.4 years or approximately 4th grade. Half
of the sample (n = 35) had been placed in a residential treatment facility at least
once prior to the time of data collection. Additionally, just under half of the
sample (45%, n = 30), had been placed in foster care at least once prior to data


The primary variable of interest in this study was school mobility. In order
to best compare findings to those of other researchers, several measures of school
mobility were used. Heinlein and Shinn (2000) reported a link between high
mobility in the early school years (i.e., two or more moves prior to 3rd grade),

School Mobility

and low reading and math achievement at 6th grade. Thus, in the current study
a mobility index score was created that reflected the number of schools attended
from the beginning of Kindergarten through the end of 2nd grade. In order to
make comparisons with studies of mobility that focused on number of school
moves prior to 6th grade (see Alexander et al., 1996; Benson, Haycraft, Steyaert,
& Weigel, 1979; Heinlinn & Shinn, 2000), a second mobility index was created to
reflect the number of schools attended from the beginning of Kindergarten through
the end of 5th grade.
In addition to calculating total number of schools attended, the timing of
school moves was also of interest. Mid-years moves are likely to be more disruptive
to a child's educational experience than school moves occurring over the summer,
the latter of which coincides with planned breaks in the curriculum. For this reason,
mid-year vs. summer session changes of school placement were also noted.
Attendance at a summer school program was not coded as a school move.
Therefore, if a student enrolled in a residential or day treatment program over
the summer but returned to his or her previous school for the following academic
year, no school move was coded. However, instances in which a student was
moved temporarily during the academic year, (e.g., to a day treatment facility
or hospital program), were coded as school moves if it was determined that the
student attended school at the temporary setting.
Grade level designations used in the coding of data reflect years in school
rather than actual grade designations in those cases where a student was retained
in grade. For example, if a student was retained in the 1 st grade, any moves that the
student experienced in his or her 2nd year of 1st grade would be coded as "moves
during 2nd gi Ic for the purposes of data collection. This approach provided an
accurate measure of mobility for students' first six years of contact with public
elementary schools.


Descriptive statistics were generated for demographic characteristics and
mobility. Univariate ANOVAs with Bonferroni corrections for repeated measures
were conducted to determine whether youth differed significantly on measures
of school mobility by ethnicity. Independent sample t-tests were conducted to
determine whether youth differed significantly on measures of school mobility
by gender and by retention status. Bivariate correlations were run for continuous
variables of interest (e.g., mobility indices, age at time of study).
In order to assess the reliability of data collection, 10% of the case records
were randomly selected for reliability checks. For those selected case records, a
second reviewer independently examined the records. Reliability in data collection
and coding was calculated by dividing the number of agreements by the number
of disagreements plus agreements and multiplying by 100. Reliability was 89%
for variables reported and analyzed in this study.

Malmgren and Gagnon


One-way ANOVAs indicated that there were no significant differences be-
tween the African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic participants with regard to
rates of mobility. Independent sample t-tests confirmed that male students were
not significantly more likely to experience high rates of school mobility than fe-
males. Additionally, t-tests confirmed that students who were retained in grade at
least once were no more likely than those who were not retained to experience
high rates of mobility. Participants' age at the time of data collection was not
significantly correlated with any of the school mobility outcome measures.

Mobility in the Elementary School Years

The average number of schools attended by students in the sample in grades
K-2 was 2.06 (SD = .99). By the end of 2nd grade, 66% (n =46) of the students
had changed schools at least once. Additionally, the average number of schools
attended by students in the sample at the end of 5th grade was 3.70 (SD = 1.84).
By the end of grade 5, only 11% of the sample had remained at one school for
their entire academic career up to that point (see Table I). The average number
of moves made by students in the sample during their Kindergarten through 5th
grade years was 2.69 (SD = 1.84). Mobility as measured by the K-5 Mobility
Index was significantly correlated with mobility scores on the K-2 Mobility Index
(.71, p = .00). The age at which participants were first identified for special
education services was negatively correlated with the total number of schools
attended by the end of 5th grade (r(62) = .25, p = .05).

Timing of School Moves

With regard to the timing of the school moves experienced by students in
this study, 24% (n = 16) had changed schools during the middle of an aca-
demic year at least once by the end of 2nd grade. By the end of 5th grade, 39%

Table I. Total Number of School Moves from Kindergarten Through Grade 5
Number of school moves Number of students Percentage of sample

0 7 11
1 13 20
2 11 17
3 16 24
4 9 14
5 5 8
6 1 2
7 4 6

School Mobility

Table II. Timing of School Moves
Number of school moves Number of students Percentage of sample

Changed schools during Kindergarten 9 13
Changed schools between K and 1st grade 22 31
Changed schools during 1st grade 4 6
Changed schools between 1st and 2nd grades 29 41
Changed schools during 2nd grade 7 10
Changed schools between 2nd and 3rd grades 29 42
Changed schools during 3rd grade 10 15
Changed schools between 3rd and 4th grades 31 45
Changed schools during 4th grade 9 13
Changed schools between 4th and 5th grades 23 34
Changed schools during 5th grade 8 11

Note. K = Kindergarten.

(n = 26) had experienced at least one mid-year school change and 27% (n = 18)
had experienced two or more separate mid-year school changes. Notably, one
student had made three mid-year school changes, four students had made four
such changes, and one student had experienced a total of six mid-year changes in
school placement by the end of 5th grade. The average number of mid-year moves
experienced by students in the sample for the period spanning grades K-5 was .80
(SD = 1.23).
Changes in school placement that were coordinated with changes in school
year were more common, with 31% of the sample experiencing a change of
school placement over the summer between Kindergarten and 1st grade and 41%
experiencing a change of school placement between 1st and 2nd grades (see
Table II). In considering school adjustment for mobile students, the timing of
moves in the child's academic career, as well as the timing of moves with respect
to other moves is an important factor. In the sample, one student who changed
schools during the middle of Kindergarten also changed schools again over the
summer between Kindergarten and 1st grade. Three other students followed this
same pattern during and after 1st grade, with another three making similar moves
during and after 2nd grade. Also, six students in the sample made unscheduled
school moves over the summer between 3rd and 4th grade after having changed
schools during the middle of the 3rd grade school year (with one of those students
having changed school twice during 3rd grade). Finally, five other students changed
schools between their 4th and 5th grade years after having also changed schools
during the 4th grade (with one of those students having changed schools twice
during the 4th grade school year).

Mobility Histories of Individual Students

Because average number of moves per school year can hide the magnitude
of individual students' chaotic school attendance histories, the mobility histories

Malmgren and Gagnon

of selected individual students are shared. Four individual students (i.e., 6% of
the sample) had experienced 8 school moves by the end of 5th grade. All four of
these most mobile students were Caucasian males. A detailed description of three
of their school attendance histories for the first six years of elementary school

Student One

This student began Kindergarten at one elementary school then changed
schools during January of that school year. He remained at that school for the
remainder of his Kindergarten year and the beginning of 1st grade, but then
switched back to his original school during the middle of his first grade year. He
then moved out of state over the summer between 1st and 2nd grades and attended
a school in the new state for all of 2nd grade. Remaining at that same school, he
was retained in grade for 2nd grade. In December of that year, he moved back to
the study district and completed his second year of 2nd grade. He changed schools
that summer, and again during November of the following school year, when he
was in 3rd grade. He changed schools again over the summer between 3rd and
4th grade, but stayed in place his entire 4th grade year. It was during that year of
4th grade that this student was referred for and began receiving special education
services. By this time, he was demonstrating problems in reading and in math
and was exhibiting behavior problems in school. He had attended eight different
schools by the time he was finally identified as in need of special education


The second student started Kindergarten at age 5 and attended that same
elementary school for all of Kindergarten. Teachers noted early in Kindergarten
that he had poor peer relations. He changed schools over the summer and attended
a second school for all of 1st grade. He changed schools in January of his 2nd
grade year and remained at that school through the beginning of 3rd grade. He
again changed schools one month into 3rd grade, switching back to the school
he had attended for the beginning of 2nd grade. Student #2 then changed school
programs over the summer and began 4th grade in a new school. He experienced
two school moves during 4th grade, one in December and one in January. This
meant that he attended three different school programs during 4th grade, all three
in different local education agencies (LEAs). He switched schools once again over
the summer following 4th grade, so that he began the 5th grade at yet another new
school back in his LEA of origin. After just one month, he moved to another
school, where he remained for the remainder of that academic year. Toward the
end of that 5th grade year, Student #2 was suspended for 5 days for bringing a knife
to school. By the time Student #2 was identified for special education services

School Mobility

in middle school, he had attended 15 different schools and been suspended from
school on four different occasions for a total of 21 days.

S.... - Three

After attending one year of Head Start, this student started Kindergarten. He
remained at the same school for his entire Kindergarten year. However, he was
switched from a half-day morning class to a half-day afternoon class in the fall due
to behavioral concerns. During that Kindergarten year, Student #3 was referred
for special education services. He began receiving special education services for
ED in February of his Kindergarten year. He was placed in a self-contained school
for students with ED for 1st grade. He attended that school for all of 1st grade and
began his 2nd grade year at that same school. After 2nd grade began, this student
became highly mobile, making three changes of school placement before the end
of 2nd grade. Specifically, he made his first school change of that year in October.
He attended the new school (School A) for one month before moving to a private
parochial school (School B). He then experienced a complete lapse of schooling
before returning to School A. After only one month, he again withdrew from
school. When he returned to school near the end of the 2nd grade school year, he
was placed in a day treatment program (School C). He remained at School C for
the beginning of 3rd grade. However, he changed school settings two more times
during 3rd grade, including 2 months of school district-provided home instruction.
He began his 4th grade year at his last school of attendance from the 3rd grade,
and continued to be educated in that same private school for all of 4th and most
of 5th grade. The last month of his 5th grade year he was placed in a residential
program. During these years, Student #4 was also undergoing other disruptions
in his life. While the exact date was not clear in his cumulative file, it was noted
that some time during his 3rd or 4th grade year, Student #3's father was shot and
killed by police.


There are two primary limitations of our study. While comparison of the
findings to previous research on school mobility indicates that students in the
sample experienced notably high rates of school mobility, the lack of a comparison
group from the same school district is a limitation. The school district from which
the sample was drawn reports school-level student mobility rates that are relatively
low. However, without a comparison group of students without ED, involvement
in child welfare, and/or involvement with juvenile justice from the same district,
it is not possible to rule out that other students in this jurisdiction also experience
high rates of mobility. Additional research with comparison groups could validate
the higher than expected rates of school mobility noted for students with ED in
this research.

Malmgren and Gagnon

Another limitation to this study is a lack of information regarding the cause
of student mobility. It can be presumed that many changes in schools were ne-
cessitated by parallel changes in residence and even family structure. However,
this research could not confirm which school changes were dictated by other
life changes. High rates of residential mobility and frequent changes in family
structure during the early school years have been linked repeatedly to negative
academic and behavioral outcomes (e.g., Ackerman, Kogos, Youngstrom, Schoff,
& Izard, 1999; Ellickson, & McGuigan, 2000; Haveman et al., 1991). Having
access to this additional information would provide documentation of additional
stressors experienced by these students.
Results of this study suggest that students with ED who are also in contact
with child welfare and juvenile corrections experience extremely high rates of
school mobility in their elementary school years. Students in the sample made
almost three school moves on average during their K-5 school years. For the
specific three students discussed, each had changed schools at least seven times by
5th grade. Additionally, at the end of 5th grade, only 11 % of the total sample had
attended one school for their entire academic career. As a point of comparison,
research conducted in Chicago Public Schools, a school district with high rates
of student mobility, resulted in findings that an average of 38% of students did
not change schools at all between Kindergarten and 6th grade (Kerbow, 1996).
In another comparative example, Wood et al. (1993) reported that 25% of all
students from a nationally representative sample remained at the same school
through age 17.
The relatively high number of school moves for this group of students is
particularly troublesome given current research on student mobility. Eckenrode
et al. (1995) reported that maltreated youth have greater academic difficulties
in part because of their high levels of school transfers. As noted, findings from
other studies that indicate high numbers of school moves in the earliest years
of school are disproportionately associated with negative academic outcomes
(Dauber, Alexander, & Entwisle, 1993). Further, in the current study many students
(31%) also changed schools between Kindergarten and 1st grade. School mobility
in the formative school years, specifically between Kindergarten and 1st grade
can have an adverse affect on student outcomes (Alexander et al., 1996; Dauber
et al., 1993; Kellam, Branch, Agrawal, & Ensinger, 1975; Reynolds, 1989). The
negative association between student mobility and school outcomes, combined
with the fact that students with ED by .'. ' '. have both social and academic
difficulty in school, makes this lack of early school stability particularly alarming.
To address the issue of high student mobility broadly, Rumberger (2003)
suggested improving the overall quality of schools and focusing on fostering
student and family attachment to local schools. Feeling attached to one's school is
related to academic achievement (Johnson, Crosnoe, & Elder, 2001). By fostering
this attachment, families may be more likely to prioritize keeping their child at

School Mobility

a given school. This point was emphasized by Kerbow (1996) who noted that
the key to reducing school mobility is to strengthen the ties that families have
with local schools, thereby encouraging families to want to keep their children
enrolled. It is difficult to imagine that students who change schools more than
once a year on average could feel strong levels of attachment to any school. For
students with ED, who frequently have problems making and keeping friends and
difficult relationships with teachers and other authority figures, these transitions
likely prove even more challenging.
Evidence from the review of school records reported here suggested that
many of the school changes experienced by youth in the sample were dictated
either by the schools themselves-as they attempted to provide different or more
restrictive educational placements to these students as their learning and behavioral
disabilities became identified-or by other agencies (e.g., child welfare). In these
cases, multi-pronged solutions need to be employed. At the school level, Eckenrode
et al. (1995) suggested that administrators adopt policies that encourage schools
to reduce the absolute number of school transfers that occur within LEAs. School
policies such as open enrollment allow students to maintain attendance in a single
school despite changes in local residence. Also, it may behoove LEAs to consider
a child's school mobility history when planning pre-referral interventions and
when making decisions about special education placement or service delivery. If
high rates of school mobility are viewed as a risk factor for later poor outcomes,
schools must consider a stable learning environment to be a desirable element of
a child's programming.
A multi-system approach also includes collaboration and communication
between child-serving agencies. Caseworkers, judges, caregivers, and other con-
cerned adults should be aware of the effect their decisions have on several domains
of a child's life. While disruption may not be completely avoidable, decisions can
be carried out in ways that minimize the impact of that disruption. For example,
if a child must be placed temporarily in foster care, child welfare and school per-
sonnel could collaborate to ensure that the child remains in the same school even
as the home placement changes. While there are certainly challenges, high rates
of mobility experienced by these already disadvantaged youth could be reduced if
that reduction is made a priority.
In addition to this high number of moves experienced by the sample overall,
another alarming finding was the high number of mid-year moves experienced
by students. By the end of 2nd grade, 23.9% of the sample had made at least
one mid-year move, and by the end of 5th grade, 39.4% of the students had done
so. By the end of 5th grade, the three students highlighted had made a combined
16 mid-years moves, with one student making seven mid-year school changes and
another five.
For students who are already showing signs of struggling academically due
to an ED, a mid-year move could result in a disjointed academic experience and

Malmgren and Gagnon

several related problems. For example, variations in the order that curriculum
is covered in different schools can lead to gaps in student learning. Mid-year
student movement may make it less likely those youth will have the information
necessary to perform proficiently on mandated statewide assessments. In addition,
changes in routines due to a mid-year move can result in difficulties with student
behavior. For students with ED, changes in routines can have an even greater
impact. For example, behavioral complications resulting form mid-year moves
include changes in support structures and peer groups (Eckenrode et al., 1995).
Breaking up peer groups increases student adjustment problems (Alexander et al.,
1996) which is compounded by difficulties with peers that are common for children
with ED.
Reducing the negative impact of mid-year moves on academic success and
behavior requires two components. First, the receiving school should provide
support to students who make mid-year moves. Audette et al. (1993) recommended
providing orientation programs, a buddy system, and peer tutoring to students upon
their arrival. Such links give students knowledge of support personnel and lay the
groundwork for positive peer relationships to develop. Communication across
schools is also important to assure that students do not miss content critical to
academic success. This exchange requires a focus on specific curriculum covered
at the sending school. Specific procedures for communication must be identified
at the state level to assure consistency across LEAs.
NIi. ii0 1N that are considered rare in other studies of school mobility (e.g.,
changing schools mid-year, following a summer change; Alexander et al., 1996)
were relatively common occurrences for the students in the current sample. Specif-
ically, 18 students in the sample (26%) experienced unscheduled summer changes
in schools after having just adjusted to a new school (or multiple new schools)
during the previous academic year. Interestingly, for the three students described
in detail, two each had two occurrences of combined mid-year school changes fol-
lowed by another move at the beginning of the next year. These kinds of multiple
disruptions can be chaotic for any child as they are forced to adjust to new and
different teaching methodologies, expectations, textbooks, and physical environ-
ments (Benson et al., 1979). High levels of school mobility are likely even more
difficult for students with ED because of within-child traits associated with ED.
Strategies to minimize the negative impact of student moves are needed. Sev-
eral researchers have proposed solutions ranging from administrative to ecological.
Wood and colleagues (1993) proposed that school systems be encouraged to de-
velop more school-based family resource centers to help schools meet the needs
of highly mobile students and their families. Specifically, these resource centers
could provide health, mental health, and social service support to families. Demie
(2002) reported that a majority of schools that had demonstrated some success in
developing strategies to combat high rates of school mobility in England provided
language support to mobile LEP students. Another solution offered by Demie, as

School Mobility

well as the U.S. GAO (1994), was the suggestion that LEAs adopt better record
keeping systems. The U.S. GAO proposed record keeping systems be adopted that
prioritize comparability across LEA and state boundaries and streamline access
to information that could be used by schools to provide better services to mobile
Additional information about the school experiences of students with ED is
greatly needed. Also, school, LEA, and state policies must be evaluated to identify
the extent to which students with high mobility are supported by formalized
policies and procedures that address the need to reduce the number of student
moves, as well as the impact of these moves. Despite a general understanding
that frequent school changes have a negative impact, many schools do not have
a systematic program to assist students with these transitions (Nelson, Simoni,
& Adelman, 1996). For these students to be appropriately served, supports are
necessary at the school, LEA, and state levels.


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