School Mobility and Achievement: Longitudinal Findings from an Urban Cohort

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This study investigated 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 seventh grade, 73% of the students changed schools at least once during elementary school and 21 % changed schools three or more times. The prospective longitudinal design of the Chicago Longitudinal Study allowed for controlled analyses of both the predictors and the consequences of school mobility. The 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 seventh grade performed approximately one year behind their nonmobile peers on reading and mathematics achievement tests taken at the end of seventh grade, only one half of this difference appears attributable to frequent mobility. The remaining portion is due to the fact that the mobile students were lower achieving even before they started to change schools. The negative consequences of past school mobility are lower for students who moved into better quality schools such as magnets or academic academies. Findings indicate that it is frequent, rather than occasional, mobility that significantly increases the risk of underachievement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-377
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of school psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Preparation of this paper was supported by a National Academy of Education/ Spencer Foundation postdoctoral fellowship to the first author and a grant to both authors from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education (No. R306F960055).


  • Educational achievement
  • Low-income
  • Minorities
  • School mobility
  • Urban schools


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