Students who move, especially during the middle of the academic year, must adapt to a lot: new classes, new textbooks, even a new social scene. And that kind of disruption can sometimes cause big academic delays.
In Chelsea, Mass.—a mostly working-class suburban city just across the Mystic River from Boston—high student mobility used to be a challenge without a clear solution. But then the district formed an unusual partnership with its neighbors to develop curriculum in tandem and make moving a bit easier.
The Five District Partnership, which includes Chelsea, was formed in 2012. But there’s new interest in the model as schools and communities suddenly face big changes in enrollment as a result of the pandemic—reasons its proponents could never have predicted.
Put simply, the pandemic seems to be leading a large number of students to change schools. Sometimes that’s because parents suffered job losses or took on new work that required relocating to different school zones or districts (though experts are still analyzing data and waiting to see the extent of such trends). Virtual learning may have allowed some of those students to stay connected to their old schools and districts, but the steady reopening of in-person classes, coupled with the upcoming end of the CDC’s eviction moratorium, could contribute to a fall with much more movement.
And those changes can disrupt student learning. Maybe a student moves to a school that has already covered, say, fractions, but their previous school hadn’t taught those yet. “Then you’re at a loss,” says Cove Davis, the executive administrator for the Five District Partnership. “That was the original idea behind the partnership. To try to get these five cities that are wound in and out of each other to have a consistent scope and sequence.”