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How to Support Transient Students: 12 Strategies for School and District Administrators

How to Support Transient Students: 12 Strategies for School and District Administrators

In a growing number of schools, the classes teachers begin the year with look little like those that they finish it with. Transient, or highly mobile, student populations are on the rise, and although administrators may not have the consistent, daily interaction with these students that classroom teachers do, policies created in school and district offices can have a huge impact on their academic success. Keeping the unique challenges and needs of transient students in mind is essential for administrators working to close achievement gaps and address important issues around equity and access.

Here, we’ll take a close look at who transient students are, as well as specific policies and initiatives education administrative can put in place to support them.

Defining Transient Student Populations

Transient student groups include a very broad range of learners. The National Institute for Urban School Improvement defines transient students as any learners “who change schools 6 or more times in their K-12 careers, or for some, those who change schools 3 times through 3rd grade”. This includes:

  • Children of migrant workers
  • Children experiencing homelessness (even if briefly)
  • Children in foster care
  • Children living in high poverty
  • Children in military families
  • Children of diplomats, international business people, and other expats

Of course, these different groups are affected by high mobility very differently and require different supports. It is also important to note that numerous studies have found the closest ties between poverty and low academic achievement—not just changing schools. However, many strategies can be implemented that benefit all groups of transient students, most centered around consistent experiences; participatory, cooperative learning; and a focus on strong relationships between students and educators.

Strategies for School and District Administrators to Support Transient Students

Administrators can serve transient students by establishing policies that make their needs a priority, better equipping classroom teachers to work with them, and establishing community liaisons. Consider implementing some of the following procedures and programs within your school or district to support transient students:

  1. Include student mobility data in accountability reporting to increase awareness of challenges and strategies for transient students and provide rationale for new programs or funding
  2. Align curricula across schools in the district so that students experiencing mobility within the district have smoother transitions
  3. Provide specific training on working with transient students to staff members and establish clear policies and consistent routines for welcoming new students, including careful review of records from previous schools, in-class welcome activities, new student buddy programs, and parent outreach.
  4. Create an orientation packet or video for new students and their families that includes school policies, contact information, school maps (or a video walkthrough), extracurricular and after school programs, and other community resources like local adult education programs and housing agencies.
  5. Connect every new student and their family with a school guidance counselor upon enrollment to discuss any concerns or potential challenges and establish a critical first relationship within the school community
  6. Prioritize engagement with the broader community your district or school is a part of, and establish relationships with the neighborhood associations, shelters, community centers, and other organizations that work with your transient students in order to improve communication, increase access to resources, and better understand student needs
  7. Invest in a high-quality diagnostic assessment tool like Edmentum’s Exact Path and assess new students immediately when they join your district or school community so that teachers have a strong understanding of their instructional level and any knowledge gaps
  8. Host events for students and families in your district or school with a multi-cultural focus and include parents in the planning process to encourage empathy and community building
  9. Make credit rollover at the high school level as seamless as possible for new students by offering opportunities for unit recovery to fill in small gaps from previous courses and short-term, ‘minimester’-style credit recovery for missing requirements
  10. Implement flexible busing policies to minimize student transfers within your district
  11. Adopt multiage classrooms so that transient students can more easily blend in and work at the appropriate academic level and pace
  12. Offer “family packs” of student records for all departing students so that parents can more easily bring that important information to their student’s next school for a smoother transition.

Supporting transient and highly mobile students is an important issue for educators, and there are lots of outstanding organizations that are hard at work tackling the challenge. For more information check out some of these great resources:

At Edmentum, we’re proud to offer research-based programs designed to save educators time and support efforts to engage students’ unique learning styles. Want to learn more about how your school or district can partner with Edmentum to meet the needs of transient students? Check out our online programs for personalized learning and flexible virtual instruction!

sarah.cornelius@edmentum.com's picture

Sarah Cornelius is a Senior Marketing Specialist at Edmentum and has been with the company since 2014. In her role, she works to provide educators with engaging and insightful resources. Sarah received her B.S. in Professional Communications and Emerging Media from the University of Wisconsin - Stout.

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