Study in Colorado shows that frequent changes in classroom assignments hurt third grade reading scores.

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Changing classrooms, also known as classroom “churn,” can have a detrimental impact on the reading scores of third graders, according to a recent study that analyzed census and state test data in Colorado.

Researchers from the Colorado Futures Center at Colorado State University found a connection between increased classroom churn and lower third grade reading achievement in the year 2019. They believe this trend has intensified post-pandemic, leading to higher rates of chronic absenteeism and educational deficits.

One teacher shared with the researchers that she had 40 different students join and leave her 20-seat classroom within a single academic year, emphasizing the challenges associated with frequent student turnover.

“Each new student requires time and effort to integrate into the classroom environment,” explained Phyllis Resnick, the executive director of the Colorado Futures Center.

Resnick highlighted the difficulties faced by students constantly entering and exiting schools, underscoring the disruptions experienced by both incoming and existing students.

The study, titled “Social Factors of Academic Success,” was prompted by inquiries on strategies to enhance student readiness for post-secondary education in Colorado.

While not an education expert, Resnick recognized the significance of early interventions in positively affecting young learners, prompting the investigation into the key factors influencing third grade reading outcomes in the state.

Analyzing socioeconomic, demographic, and health data, the research team aimed to pinpoint the factors most impacting third grade reading performances across Colorado.

Predictably, findings revealed that higher school funding and increased access to early childhood education correlated with improved third grade reading scores.

Among the identified factors, the impact of classroom churn captured the researchers’ attention. Using state data on student mobility and standardized test results, they assessed the effects of classroom turnover on reading proficiency.

Classroom churn emerged as the third most influential factor influencing third grade reading scores, trailing behind students’ family income and parental educational backgrounds. Notably, variables like class sizes and teacher salaries did not exhibit significant correlations with reading achievements.

Resnick emphasized the unexpected significance of churn in classroom dynamics, sparking conversations on potential policy interventions to address the issue.

The study suggests strategies such as increased support for classrooms experiencing high churn rates and implementing teacher tenure with consistent groups of students to establish stability.

Recognizing housing instability as a primary driver of classroom turnover, the study advocates for enhanced school record systems to facilitate seamless academic transitions for midyear enrollees.

With the study published, Resnick aims to secure funding for sharing the findings and policy recommendations with educators statewide.

“This study initiates a dialogue to address these critical issues,” Resnick stated.

Melanie Asmar

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