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Student Mobility and Dropout in Philadelphia High Schools, 2013-14 through 2016-2017

PERC research is produced through collaboration between researchers from Research for Action and the School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Research and Evaluation. For more information, please visit

Philadelphia offers an extensive array of public high school options for students, including charter schools, traditional schools, schools with selective admissions, and schools at which admission is based on residence (that is, neighborhood catchment zones). A large number of education options might benefit students by enabling them to find schools that are the right fit for them. But a choice-rich education system might also increase student mobility from one school to another during high school.

While some student mobility is expected and perhaps even beneficial for some students, prior research shows that, on average, students who move schools have lower academic achievement and higher dropout rates than their non-mobile peers. Studies have also shown that there are negative consequences for non-mobile students if many of their peers are mobile.

While many studies have shown a connection between student mobility and negative student outcomes, few have focused on the high school grades, and there is no prior evidence on student mobility that specifically focuses on Philadelphia. The purpose of this report is to fill that gap with new information about the extent of mobility in Philadelphia’s public high schools and to examine the association between mobility and the likelihood of dropping out of high school.