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

  • Jelena Obradović (a1), Jeffrey D. Long (a1), J. J. Cutuli (a1), Chi-Keung Chan (a2), Elizabeth Hinz (a2), David Heistad (a2) and Ann S. Masten (a1)...


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.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jelena Obradović, Human Early Learning Partnership, University of British Columbia, 440–2206 East Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada; E-mail:


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