Date of Degree

2-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor(s)

Sophia Catsambis

Mary Clare Lennon

Committee Members

Mary Clare Lennon

David Rindskopf

Subject Categories

Educational Sociology | Quantitative, Qualitative, Comparative, and Historical Methodologies

Keywords

Ecological Transition, Residential Mobility, School Transfer, Academic Achievement, Early Childhood Education, Hierarchical Linear Modeling

Abstract

In this dissertation, I identify different types of U.S. elementary school students experiencing ecological transitions and examine their characteristics. Then, I investigate the short-term and long-term educational outlooks of these ecological transition groups from birth through their 5th-grade. The main research questions are: Which are the characteristics of students experiencing each type of ecological transition? What short–term associations exist between different types of ecological transitions and students’ academic achievement during the elementary school grades? What long–term associations exist between students’ ecological transition histories and their academic achievement growth?

To address these questions I used data from the public use files of the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Kindergarten Cohort 1998 (ECLS–K 1998). I extracted five lagged (two time points at the time) analytic samples to investigate associations between ecological transitions and the grade–by–grade change in learning, and one longitudinal analytic sample to examine the links of ecological transition histories to students’ achievement growth across the elementary school grades, from kindergarten to the 5th–grade.

The main results show that the characteristics of students change across types of ecological transition and, to some extent, they also change over time. Overall, movers and leavers appear more disadvantaged than stayers, structural changers and volitional changers. However, over time ‘volitional changer’ identifies a disadvantaged group of students. Academic achievement is associated with ecological transitions in the short–term but not in the long–term. Moreover, ecological transitions are positively associated with academic achievement growth in early elementary grades, whereas they are negatively linked with achievement growth in later elementary grades. Academic achievement appeared to be more closely linked to school changes than to residential moves.

These findings suggest that for the general population of elementary school students, any effects of ecological transitions may be almost exclusively temporary. Educators and policy makers, however, should consider that even short–term consequences for students may result in long–term consequences for schools, when faced with a constant flow of transfer students. Families and schools should cooperate to facilitate students’ post–transition adjustment to their new settings, to encourage academic success for students and limit the negative consequences of student turnover for schools.

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