Open enrollment allows parents a choice of schools for their children, but it is not the cure to fixing academic outcomes, according to a new study released by the American Psychological Association.
The study, involving children enrolled in the Chicago public school system, shows that low income students who are able to change schools frequently are at a higher risk of flunking mathematics and having a harder time controlling their classroom behavior, compared to similar students who remain in the same school.
“Simply stated, frequently changing schools is a major risk factor for low-income children’s school success,” says Allison Friedman-Krauss, PhD, of New York University, the study’s lead author.
She says children who experienced fewer school changes over a five year period also demonstrated greater cognitive skills, relative to their counterparts who changed schools frequently.
Open enrollment was created with the best of intentions: to give students in underperforming, underfunded schools a shot at a better education.
The study used data of 381 students who were predominantly black and Hispanic, and all from low-income families. Friedman-Kraus says the study found that the more a student moved, the more their academic achievement and cognitive skills suffered.
The study report reads “frequently changing schools (3 or 4 school changes over the same time period) was positively associated with teacher-reported cognitive dysregulation in third grade and negatively associated with children’s math achievement in fourth grade.
Friedman-Kraus says “cognitive dysregulation” includes issues with behavioral self-control, attention span, memory and problem solving, which if not mastered can compromise a child’s ability to learn math in particular.
The findings support another recent study that found that 15 percent of low-income Chicago students who attended high schools away from their neighborhood wound up at an institution of higher learning that was objectively worse than their local option.