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The Issues Surrounding Student Mobility

Changing schools can affect how students learn—and require you to alter your teaching strategies.

If you’re like most people, you had a grade school or high school friend who moved away mid-year. Perhaps you changed schools, too. It’s common enough that it has a name: student mobility.

A mobile student is any student who changes schools during the school year or between grades for any purpose other than academic advancement (i.e., moving up from elementary school to middle school). Even if you never knew any mobile students growing up, you’ve almost certainly encountered them in your teaching career. Here’s what you need to know to better address the issue.

The Issues Surrounding Student Mobility

Students Are Mobile for a Variety of Reasons

The main reasons students change schools include:

  • The family is moving away for a parent’s job/military career.
  • The family is buying a new home outside the school district.
  • The student is switching to a charter or private school.
  • The student’s school is being closed.
  • The family is being evicted or is otherwise losing housing in the district.
  • The student is leaving the district to live with other relatives/foster parents.
  • The student is being expelled from school.

A Disproportionate Number of Mobile Students Are Disadvantaged

U.S. government studies have found that highly mobile students are disproportionately poor or black, and that 39% of the most mobile students come from families who do not own their home.1 What this indicates is that, for many students, mobility is a consequence of disadvantage and that moving schools is not a choice but a necessity due to life/family disruptions.

Student Mobility Negatively Affects Student Learning

Moving schools is not benign. Studies have found that a change in school has a larger negative effect on student learning than any other identifiable factor.2 This negative effect is most likely due to the loss of educational continuity as well as a loss of social stability, which can cause students to struggle to catch up with/adjust to the learning goals of the new school and fit in with peers.

Educators Are Trying to Address the Problem of Student Mobility

While student mobility is often caused by circumstances outside a teacher’s or a school’s control, there are steps educators can take to reduce student mobility, and there are teaching strategies educators can use to help mobile students avoid the negative learning outcomes that often accompany changing schools. Recently, the National Education Policy Center released a series of recommendations in this regard.3 They include:

  • Improving the quality of schools to reduce the number of students who change schools in search of a better education.
  • Avoiding school closures or, when school closures are necessary, planning in advance to reduce the strains student mobility will place on student learning.
  • Implementing systems and strategies designed to help students who transfer into a school.
  • Working at the local, state, and federal policymaking level to address the causes of student mobility, such as housing instability and economic insecurity.

You Can Address Student Mobility—and Help Improve Learning in General—With an MSEd Degree

Student mobility cannot be eliminated, but we can work to reduce it and do a better job educating mobile students. And you can be a part of that if you earn an MS in Education (MSEd).

Through a master’s in education program, you can gain an advanced understanding of our educational system, the challenges it faces, and the potential solutions available. It’s an excellent education degree for any teacher who wants to contribute more in the classroom and/or at the administrative level. And thanks to online learning, earning your master’s degree in education is more possible than ever before.

When you earn a master’s in education online, you can manage your schedule and responsibilities in a way that makes it possible to attend a school of education while you continue working full time. In fact, online teaching degrees are specifically geared for adult learners who need flexibility. Instead of spending lots of time on a campus, you’ll be able to complete your online master’s in education from home or anywhere else you have internet access. Plus, the online education format gives you the power to schedule the time of day you attend class, allowing your to arrange your teaching degree around your existing responsibilities.

Student mobility has a major effect on student learning. With an MSEd degree, you can help address the issue—and help all students learn more.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Education degree program online. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission,