Years of research have shown that transient students suffer from lower achievement,

more behavior problems, and issues with engagement – with every issue worsening each

time a student switches schools. At the same time, high rates of transience in elementary

schools can disrupt classroom environments and lessen learning for all students. Yet the

rates of highly mobile students are increasing, especially in urban areas and suburban

edge cities, where one out of five third graders has moved twice since beginning


According to research conducted by Donna Sanderson and published in Education,

students who switch elementary schools often display gaps in their education, negative

attitudes toward school, and weak basic skills – three issues that not only hold back the

students themselves, but also take time from others in the classroom.

Highly transient students can be a challenge for the administration and teachers alike;

however, there are some steps that can ease the transition for new students while at the

same time increasing transient student achievement.

 Get their history. Transient students often lack thorough school records – records

that could include information regarding learning disabilities, reading and math

levels, behavioral problems, and even important medical issues. Without this

educational history, it is difficult to know each child’s needs or how each child

will affect his or her new classroom. Information from parents will be an

invaluable resource when the child enrolls, and short assessment tests can help

with placement.

 Give them a student buddy. Assigning a learning partner to a new transient

student can combat both the academic and behavioral challenges that these new

students face. Buddies help can fill in some learning gaps that stall overall

classroom learning while also helping the student understand and assimilate into

the social aspects of the classroom. At the same time, teaching a new student will

help reinforce learning for the other buddy.

 Use other human resources. In addition to a student buddy, utilize other helpers

in the school – such as student teachers, classroom aides, social workers, guidance

counselors, and therapists. Extra individual attention is key to engaging these

transient students, who often feel that getting to know individuals or forming

attachments may lead to heartache during the next move – and individual

attention can help pinpoint the specific leaning gaps and underlying behavior

issues that may be overlooked in a general classroom setting.

 Pay attention to classroom organization and climate. It is easier for transient

students to disengage if they are at the back of the room, or if they are unfamiliar

with the classroom’s schedule, rituals, and rules. Place transient students near to

the teacher and mix classroom instruction with group seating and group learning.

If highly mobile students feel that they are part of the classroom physically, they

are more likely to feel welcomed, assimilate, and ultimately achieve.