Academic achievement of homeless and highly mobile children in an urban school district: longitudinal evidence on risk, growth, and resilience

Dev Psychopathol. Spring 2009;21(2):493-518. doi: 10.1017/S0954579409000273.

Abstract

Longitudinal growth trajectories of reading and math achievement were studied in four primary school grade cohorts (GCs) of a large urban district to examine academic risk and resilience in homeless and highly mobile (H/HM) students. Initial achievement was assessed when student cohorts were in the second, third, fourth, and fifth grades, and again 12 and 18 months later. Achievement trajectories of H/HM students were compared to low-income but nonmobile students and all other tested students in the district, controlling for four well-established covariates of achievement: sex, ethnicity, attendance, and English language skills. Both disadvantaged groups showed markedly lower initial achievement than their more advantaged peers, and H/HM students manifested the greatest risk, consistent with an expected risk gradient. Moreover, in some GCs, both disadvantaged groups showed slower growth than their relatively advantaged peers. Closer examination of H/HM student trajectories in relation to national test norms revealed striking variability, including cases of academic resilience as well as problems. H/HM students may represent a major component of "achievement gaps" in urban districts, but these students also constitute a heterogeneous group of children likely to have markedly diverse educational needs. Efforts to close gaps or enhance achievement in H/HM children require more differentiated knowledge of vulnerability and protective processes that may shape individual development and achievement.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Educational Status*
  • Homeless Persons / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools
  • Social Environment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Students / psychology*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*