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Frequent Moves Slow Children's Learning

Changing schools three or four times between preschool and fourth grade lowered math scores by 10 points. Credit: DodgertonSkillhause/
Changing schools three or four times between preschool and fourth grade lowered math scores by 10 points. Credit: DodgertonSkillhause/
October 15, 2015

NEW YORK – Children who change schools frequently start falling behind by the time they reach fourth grade, according to a study of low-income children.

The study found that moving from school to school more than twice in the five years from Head Start preschool through third grade correlated with lower scores on math tests.

Allison Friedman-Krauss, assistant research professor at the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, co-authored the study. She says the difference is about 10 points on standardized achievement tests.

"Children who moved three or four times over that five-year period – compared to children who didn't move frequently – scored lower on the math achievement by about eight months of learning," she points out.

According to Friedman-Krauss that difference puts children who change schools more often in danger of failing to meet state standards.

The research also showed that those same children have more behavioral problems and difficulty paying attention in school, a factor Friedman-Krauss says was central to choosing to look at math scores.

"We were interested in self regulation and there's been a lot of research to show a very robust relationship between self regulation and later math achievement," she states.

The study followed almost 400 low-income children in the Chicago school system.

Friedman-Krauss believes the results indicate the need to take what researchers call school mobility into consideration both in the classroom and in planning curriculum.

"So if children are missing math lessons because they're moving, because there's gaps in the curriculum from school to school, they're going to need extra support from their teachers and the teachers may need extra support from the school," she says.

The authors of the study point out that children from low-income families face many difficulties that can affect school performance, and providing supports for those transitioning to new schools can help.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY