Contextualizing school mobility : investigating the influence of racially/ethnically-relevant factors on students’ mobility experiences

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2023-08

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Understanding the impact of school mobility on student outcomes has been of keen interest to researchers and policymakers for decades. However, studying the influence of school mobility is complicated by the many confounding student and contextual characteristics that are related to both the initiation of student mobility and students’ educational outcomes. Through two studies, the current dissertation sought to disentangle some of the confounding factors of school mobility by focusing on how changes in racially/ethnically relevant contextual factors—including school racial composition and school racial climate—influenced students’ academic outcomes over time. Study one utilized data from the Northwest Evaluation Association’s (NWEA) anonymized longitudinal student achievement database and followed 230,055 Kindergarten to 2nd grade students over four years to examine how changes in school racial composition across a non-normative school move influenced students’ math and reading achievement trajectories. Study one also explored variation in these associations by race. The second study utilized data from a longitudinal community-based sample and followed 697 students across the high school transition. The aim of study two was to identify subpopulations of students with distinct academic trajectories across the high school transition and determine whether changes in students’ perceptions of school racial climate from middle school to high school influenced their school performance and attendance trajectories across the transition. Both studies identify disruptions in students’ academics across a school move. Study one finds an influence in changing school racial composition on students’ achievement following a school move with Latino/a/x students being particularly sensitive to declining same-ethnic peers across a school move. Study two identifies three distinct school performance trajectories in middle school and high school and finds that changes in school racial climate perceptions across the high school transition influence students’ high school performance and attendance. The current study contributes to the ongoing school mobility literature by contextualizing school mobility within a diversifying education system and serves to identify factors that may enhance student outcomes during periods of transition.

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