In the last week or two, we have added six new special education students. We have added regular students, too. To our knowledge, none of these students represent military transfers. The military tends to allow its parents to finish out school years before transfers. We are a relatively small school.
Who are these parents? What are they thinking? One speculation in the teacher’s lounge intrigued me. At least locally, families tend to know that my district does not retain students and I am sure the news has spread that we are not retaining students this year. Faced with a child’s being held back, some families might opt to move into a district where their child does not have to repeat any grades.
Some of these transfers came from some distance away, though. They are not part of the revolving door of student moves between our suburb and nearby suburbs to the North who regularly exchange students with us. These moves are mysteries.
Frequently, late-arriving students are disruptive. The family may be changing schools specifically because of behavior problems. We lost one girl from my classes this year after she ran away with gang friends, causing her family to decide to separate her from her local peer group. Even new students who were not sources of trouble in their previous districts may become challenges when suddenly plunged into a new school, away from old friends and families. New students are often angry at their loss. They act out to attract the attention of possible new friends. They may also find themselves hopelessly confused academically — especially if sudden school moves are part of a family pattern.
Eduhonesty: This shifting of student sands does not occur where I live, not in the same order of magnitude anyway. The parents in this middle-class suburb tend to finish out school years before changing locations. If dad or mom is transferred, the remaining parent will often stay behind until June before reuniting the family. To maintain two households requires money, however. Where I work, the only way “Jamie” may get to stay in her school will probably be an aunt or relative who lives in district. When we compare America’s school districts, this higher mobility in financially-disadvantaged areas only rarely hits the radar. That mobility can have a significant impact on learning and test scores, however. The special education classes in my school are struggling to absorb new students now, at a time when we are supposed to be getting ready for end of year tests. How these new kids will do on tests is anybody’s guess at the moment.