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On any given day, there are more than 700,000 military-connected students enrolled in U.S. public schools. Many of these students have recently transferred schools and can anticipate additional moves during their K-12 school career because frequent moves are a fact of life for most children who have a parent in the military. They change schools about three times more often than civilian children – and by the time they finish high school, it is common for them to have experienced 6-9 non-promotional school changes. Other highly mobile students – children of migrant workers, those experiencing homelessness or other unstable family structures or circumstances, and refugees, for instance – also experience frequent and destabilizing school transitions.

Although the full effects of school mobility on students are not well understood, there is little question that mobility can significantly hamper students’ academic and socioemotional development. Professionals who work with highly mobile students have witnessed and documented a cascade of effects from frequent moves, though data on the types, causes and frequency of these effects are lacking – in part because the students are hard to track; they’re too mobile. There is an increasing awareness among researchers and educators that mobility, this hidden inequity, presents unique academic and social challenges.