The first day of school only happens once a year, except in schools like mine, when the first day happens far too frequently for many of our students and teachers.
Our 4th graders are taking the NAEP this year. The survey asked about our mobility rate. The question was multiple choice, with 0 percent being the lowest rate, and “20 percent or more” being the highest rate.
Our school has a 30 percent mobility rate, so we were off the scale.
Mobility is the rate at which students enroll or transfer from a school during the year. Our 30 percent rate means that if a class of 33 students begins the year, only 23 of those original 33 students will be enrolled by the end of the year, with ten transferring out and ten new students will have enrolled to replace them.
Mobility might not sound like a problem, but it is, especially when coupled with crippling poverty. I always taught in schools serving high-poverty populations of 90 percent or more, but I never considered the effects of mobility until I became an administrator. You rarely hear about mobility as a pressing issue, but I contend that it needs to be.
Through my own observations and speaking with our students and teachers I’ve come to believe mobility is as damaging, if not more-so, than poverty itself. The first twenty days of a school year are so crucial there are multiple books written about the subject. Within the first twenty days teachers must establish classroom routines and expectations that will either make or break the entire school year. From my vantage point as a principal I’ve witnessed teachers that fail to establish productive classroom norms in the first 20 days, and the students and teacher (and their neighboring colleagues) suffer the entire year for it.
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