Read about CRP's current activities and research in central Ohio and beyond. Click on one of the recent news items below, search by keyword, or choose a number or letter in the grey box.
To view the listing by date of articles mentioning CRP or related to CRP work, click here.
Student turnover dependent on several factors at local schools
November 18, 2012
by Brian Gadd and Benjamin Lanka
Elementary school students in Zanesville City Schools lost about 20 percent of their classmates in two years. In contrast, the turnover in the East Muskingum Local Schools was only 8 percent between 2009 and 2011.
Thousands of students across Ohio leave school districts for a variety of reasons: parents found a job, parents lost a job, custody disputes, etc. Such mobility can not only make learning difficult for the child changing schools, but it also can create a disruptive environment for the entire class, experts say.
A joint study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, of Washington, and Community Research Partners, of Columbus, examined student mobility across Ohio, providing district-by-district looks at classroom stability.
Roberta Garber, executive director of Community Research Partners, said examining student movement was important to show how much the issue challenges districts across the state.
"We know from research we've done, highly mobile students have lower test scores," she said.
And that's a big concern for Zanesville Superintendent Terry Martin.
"It definitely has an effect on students' learning ability," Martin said. "With every new student or those who switch districts, there's an adjustment period. That's why school districts are trying to replicate the way they do things, from district to district. But when you factor in job loss or illness and things of that nature, it's pretty proven it affects the mental outlook of the child."
The study looked at numerous mobility statistics. One examined the percentage of students who started in a district in the fall of 2009 and still were there in the spring of 2011. Another looked at how many student movements — new arrivals or departures — there were in comparison to the entire student population, known as churn.
At Zanesville, the stability was 80.8 percent for students in kindergarten through seventh grade. This means almost 20 percent of the students who started at the school in 2009 were not enrolled continuously in the district for the next two school years. For older students, the rate was 74.4 percent.
Problems retaining students in the early learning years can make the problem worse down the road, Martin said.
"If you are held back for a year, for whatever reason, or switching schools, you are more likely to drop out," Martin said. "That's why we put in credit recovery programs, because a school change, loss of a parent or job can lead to a student losing a good portion of their education. It's a big concern for us."
West Muskingum Schools showed a continuous enrollment rate of 82.4, but showed one of the higher older student rates at 87.2. East Muskingum came in at 91.7 percent for younger students and 84.9 for older students.
The study focused on the stability of kids in younger grades. Garber said that was because there typically are more reasons for a high school student to leave school than an elementary one.
Local districts are not alone in battling these issues. More than 50 districts in the state had stability rates of less than 80 percent, and the majority of districts had stability rates of less than 90 percent. Of 11 local districts in Muskingum, Perry and Morgan counties, eight were less than 90 percent but only one, Southern Local (Miller) in Perry County, was less than 80 percent (79.6) for early learners.
Not every district battles with high student mobility. At East Muskingum Schools, almost 92 percent of K-7 students remained in the district after two years, one of the highest rates in the state.
Of course, this district has some advantages, especially that it has the smallest percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the area.
However, mobility still is a concern for East Muskingum Superintendent Jill Johnson, even though the district’s churn rate is low.
"When you have mobility, that impacts what happens in the classroom. It doesn't just hurt the child, but how education is interpreted for all students in that classroom," Johnson said. "It all depends on how quickly the teachers incorporate the new student into the daily operations of the class. Kids are going to be taught the same standards where ever they go, and that’s supposed to be seamless. But there are some that still slip through the cracks because the parents lost jobs or can’t find housing in our district."
Johnson said the district prides itself on "keeping people in the community" and graduating its students rather than losing them to online schools, which has contributed to the low turnover.
The demographics are much different in a southern Ohio county such as Pike County, with the state's highest unemployment rate. At Eastern Local Schools in the county, nearly three-fourths of its students are considered economically disadvantaged. The highest rate in the area is at Zanesville, with 64.6 percent; the low at West Muskingum, with 32.7 percent.
The local economy plays a role in the fact that more than 20 percent of Eastern’s K-7 students left the district within two years, school officials said.
In addition to having a generally transient population, the district also is home to numerous foster children placed there by the courts, said Marcia Clark, district programs director.
"Sometimes we have them for a year. Most of the time, they are two- to four-month students," she said.
While the turnover at the district is high when compared to all districts, Eastern is one of the most stable districts when compared with others facing large populations in poverty.
Clark said the district is working to try to increase retention by offering free breakfast and free lunch. Plus, the district started a football program to keep students interested in staying in school.
Superintendent Neil Leist said teachers have learned to adapt to transient students. Because many of the teachers come from the community, they have a vested interest in ensuring all students succeed. In addition, it is normal for administrators to visit children who are struggling or have missed several days of school.
"That is one of the very unique things. The administration is caring enough to do home visits," he said.
The results have been a success, he said, as the school has received good marks from the state. It received an "effective" ranking for the final year tested by the study, essentially a "B" grade.
Garber, with the research organization, said across the state there are districts with fairly mobile populations that are doing well academically. She said her hope in compiling this data was to prompt districts to talk to each other about how to handle the issue.
"Mobility is a fact of life. The question is how do districts handle it," she said.