Non-Promotional School Mobility of Immigrant and Refugee Language Minority Children in Texas:
Unintended Consequences of the Educational Accountability System
School mobility is common among Immigrant/refugee families, moving frequently to seek employment, avoid deportation, or attempt to secure cheaper housing. Consequently, language minority children are likely to experience substantial non-promotional mobility (moving from school to school for reasons other than promotion to higher grades), which is often associated with diminished academic achievement (Dworkin & Lorence, 2007). Under the aegis of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 and Race to the Top Act of 2009, parents are offered school choice if the school their children attends is low-performing and fails to meet test passing standards two years in a row. However, only high-achieving schools can off-set the cost of non-promotional mobility. Such schools are often white schools where the immigrant/refugee children become tokens (< 10%) and their test scores are not subject to disaggregated accountability results. The children may be ignored by their teachers, thereby negating the advantages of mobility to a higher-achieving school.
Using student-level data on three cohorts of Texas students (n = 210,000) we examine the academic cost to immigrant and refugee children of moving from a failing to a passing school if they become tokens whose test scores are not disaggregated for school accountability. The academic cost of non-promotional mobility is higher for immigrant/refugee children than for native-born children from low-income families.