Student Mobility and Dropout in Philadelphia High Schools, 2013-14 through 2016-17

Great Learning

Student Mobility and Dropout in Philadelphia High Schools, 2013-14 through 2016-17

Philadelphia offers an extensive array of public high school options for students, including charter schools, traditional schools, schools with selective admissions, and schools at which admission is based on residence (that is, neighborhood catchment zones). A large number of education options might benefit students by enabling them to find schools that are the right fit for them. But a choice-rich education system might also increase student mobility from one school to another during high school. For example, schools might counsel students experiencing academic or behavioral problems to enroll elsewhere, while the extent of school choices might lead some students to continue shopping for schools throughout their high school years. While some student mobility is expected and perhaps even beneficial for some students, prior research shows that, on average, students who move schools have lower academic achievement and higher dropout rates than their non-mobile peers. Studies have also shown that there are negative consequences for non-mobile students if many of their peers are mobile.

While many studies have shown a connection between student mobility and negative student outcomes, few have focused on the high school grades, and there is no prior evidence on student mobility that specifically focuses on Philadelphia. The purpose of this report is to fill that gap with new information about the extent of mobility in Philadelphia’s public high schools and to examine the association between mobility and the likelihood of dropping out of high school.

This study uses four years of student-level data for all students enrolled in Philadelphia public high schools from the 2013-14 through 2016-17 school years. It examines the characteristics of mobile students and the types of schools they most commonly exit and enter as well as the characteristics of schools with higher rates of student mobility. The study concludes with an examination of the association between student mobility and high school dropout.

Published: September 2019
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