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Elementary School Children: Many Change Schools Frequently, Harming Their Education

HEHS-94-45 Published: Feb 04, 1994. Publicly Released: Feb 04, 1994.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the number and characteristics of children who change schools frequently, focusing on: (1) their success in school compared to children who have never changed schools; (2) whether federal educational programs provide adequate assistance to mobile children; and (3) whether improved student record systems help schools make informed judgments about the services these students need.


Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
Given the great educational needs of migrant children who have changed school districts recently, Congress may wish to consider focusing migrant education funding to give higher priority to such children. This could be accomplished, for example, by limiting eligibility for federal Migrant Education Program services only to migrant children who have changed school districts within the last 2 years, rather than continuing program eligibility to formerly migrant children who have not changed school districts for as many as 6 years.
Closed – Implemented
Congress took action when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended, was reauthorized.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education The Department of Education should determine the reason(s) for the low Chapter 1 participation rates of low-achieving children who have changed schools frequently.
Closed – Implemented
On the basis of a recent Chapter 1 program study, the Department has examined some of the reasons for limited Chapter 1 services to highly mobile students; it has also examined additional information from its ongoing study of how states are meeting the educational needs of homeless children, a highly mobile population. Based on GAO's report concerning the extent of student mobility, legislation was enacted as part of Title X of the Improving America's Schools Act, to allow support from the Fund for the improvement of Education to be used to address the problem of student mobility.
Department of Education The Department of Education should develop strategies so that all eligible children who have changed schools frequently, including migrant children, will have access to Chapter 1 services.
Closed – Implemented
The Department has, in numerous presentations at national conferences, monitoring reviews, and responses to policy questions, stressed that it is important for states and districts, particularly when a highly mobile population is the norm in their locations, to consider this population's needs when designing the Chapter 1 educational program. The Department proposed language, which was later included in the Improving America's Schools Act, to promote systemic planning at the state and local levels to coordinate better the delivery of federally funded educational services to all eligible participants, explicitly including migrant children.
Department of Education The Department of Education should determine the feasibility of using electronic student record systems, such as those currently being adopted by some states and school districts for all students, instead of the Migrant Student Record Transfer System (MSRTS).
Closed – Implemented
The Department strongly agrees that MSRTS has outlived its usefulness and has considered other, broader and more cost-effective mechanisms for transmitting education and health records on mobile children. One such mechanism is SPEEDE/ExPRESS, which is currently being developed jointly by the Council of Chief State School Officers and the Department's National Center for Education Statistics, to facilitate the electronic transfer of student records from school to school. The Assistant Secretary for Elementary, Secondary, and Vocational Education met with state and local officials to announce the end of MSRTS and to examine the use of SPEEDE/ExPRESS. The Department has also funded the pilot testing of SPEEDE/ExPRESS in a few local school districts.

Full Report

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Attendance recordsAttrition ratesComparative analysisCompensatory educationDisadvantaged personsElectronic formsElementary educationElementary school studentsImmigrantsMigrant workers