Max Rady College of Medicine

Concept: School Assignment (School Transfers / School Changes and Longest Attended)

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Concept Description

Last Updated: 2020-07-20


    School assignment refers to how students are matched to the schools they have attended or are currently attending. Researchers have measured this concept through measuring (the sub-concepts) (a) school transfers / school changes and (b) school longest attended.

A. School Transfers / School Changes

    This describes definitions of school transfers / school changes and school stability that have been used in research conducted at MCHP. Two methods of analyzing school transfers / school changes in Manitoba students are explained.


  • School Transfers / School Changes:
    Brownell et al. (2008) defines school changes as the number of times a student changes schools that were not part of an expected progression through the grades. Expected progressions were identified when a student reached the highest grade of a school and the next year transferred to a different school (i.e., graduating from grade 6 in one school and starting grade 7 in another school).

    NOTE: The term "School Transfers" is updated terminology used in current MCHP research.

  • School Stability:
    Guevremont et al. (2007) defines school stability as "the percentage of students in the same school for two consecutive Septembers, excluding students who made an 'expected' change" (p.54). Example SAS code for analyzing low stability schools developed by Anne Guevremont, is available ( internal access only ). This type of analysis may be useful when observing what characteristics are common among schools with a stability of less than 70%.

1) Brownell et al. (2008)

    Brownell et al. (2008) reported the rate of school changes as a percent of students who experienced no school change. The rate of school changes in two grade 3 student cohorts was analyzed over a period of 4 school years (September to June) each: 1997/1998 to 2000/2001 and 2002/2003 to 2005/2006. The relevant data for previous years is incomplete.

    Manitoba Education Tracking (MET) numbers were used to specify individual students. Records with non-valid identification numbers, out-of-province postal codes, those pertaining to evening and summer schools, and students who did not remain in the province for the entire four years of study were excluded.

    To determine the rate of school changes, several arrays associated with each student record were created:
    1. An array reporting the student's academic year
    2. An array reporting the schools (i.e. schoolids) the student attended in each of those academic years
    3. An array reporting the grade the student attended in that academic year
    4. An array that evaluated if there was a school change or not in their subsequent academic year

    These arrays yield:
    1. A count (i.e. num_trans) of the total number of school changes (excluding expected school changes).

      Carole Taylor created formats that accounted for "expected" school changes on an academic year by academic year basis that were not previously considered. They include the following situations:
      1. When a school closes its doors and therefore all kids need to move to a different school
      2. When a school restructures and therefore the grades changes (e.g., a school that was previously K-6 is now K-4; therefore those that are in grade 5 and 6 need to move to a different school.
      (Information from personal communication by email with Carole Taylor, July 25, 2011)

    2. A variable reporting any transfer in their four years (excluding expected school changes)
      • i.e. notrans= (Y or N)
        1 = Y, 0 = N

    For an example of possible situations that may appear in arrays, please see Example Arrays (internal access only). (Information from Personal Communication with Wendy Au, July 25, 2011)

2) Guevremont et al. (2007)

    The following information is based on research conducted by Anne Guevremont.

    To measure school changes, up to three schools per academic year (grade) were recorded, from the enrollment file records, for each student. One grade per individual student was recorded for each academic year.) The encrypted Personal Health Identification Numbers ( PHINs ) were used to specify individual students. The number of school changes was calculated by counting the number of schools a student was in during a given academic year, noting if the student attended a different school during the following year, and subtracting one. Records with non-valid identification numbers, out-of-province postal codes, and records pertaining to evening and summer schools were excluded.

    School changes have been recorded for the five-year period from 1997/98 to 2002/03; the relevant data for previous years was incomplete. Some school changes are a result of entering a grade that the current school does not offer (e.g. a child graduating from middle school to high school). To separate these types of school changes, the highest grade that the school offers was determined. These 'expected' school changes were not counted as school changes, and hence were excluded from the analyses. If a student was not enrolled in school the next year, this occurrence was also not counted as a school change.

    Three variables were calculated for each year of data. These variables include the following:

    1. School changes within the year
    2. School changes between the years
    3. Total school changes for the year

    In addition, three composite variables were calculated by summing the previous (yearly) variables:

    1. School changes - this variable is the sum of both the within year and between year changes for all grades during the 6-year period from 1997/98 to 2002/03 (i.e., it is the total number of school changes for the period)
    2. School changes in Elementary School - this variable includes the total school changes in the six-year period for students enrolled in Kindergarten to Grade 8 (including Special Elementary)
    3. School changes High School - this variable includes the total school changes in the six-year period for students enrolled in S1 to S4 (the high school years).

    Three composite variables were calculated by summing school changes per year enrollment and taking their average:

    1. Changes per year - this is the average number of changes per year of enrollment. It is calculated by summing the total number of school changes per year (including both within year and between year changes, per year) and then dividing that number by the total number of years of enrollment (13 years, if a student was enrolled from Kindergarten to S4)
    2. Changes per year in Elementary School - this is the average number of changes per year of enrollment from Kindergarten to Grade 8 (including Special Elementary)
    3. Changes per year in High School - this is the average number of changes per year of enrollment from S1 to S4.

    Using overall total numbers which include students in Manitoba schools for only one or two years, could be misrepresentative of total changes. To prevent this problem, only cohorts for whom we have complete data should be followed. For example, students in Grade 3 in 1997/98 can be followed to Grade 8 in 2002/03. In addition, using the changes per year variable can help to avoid this problem.

    When looking at school stability by school within neighbourhood clusters, there seems to be higher stability in the lowest Socioeconomic Factor Index (SEFI) areas by individuals within Neighbourhood Clusters than by schools within those Neighbourhood Clusters. This can be explained by the fact that schools are assigned a neighborhood cluster based on where the majority of their students live. For example, in 2001, although 1736 students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 lived in Point Douglas, only six schools containing 1306 students were assigned to Point Douglas, and only 859 of those students actually lived in Point Douglas. This explanation accounts for the differences in stability (within individuals vs. within schools) that were observed.

B. School Longest Attended

    This sub-concept includes variables related to the high school that a student attended for the longest period of time. The sub-concept was developed because of the potential research problem posed by many students attending more than one high school.

    MCHP researchers computed the school longest attended for the 1979-1982 cohorts and for the 1984-1985 cohorts. At least one high school enrollment record was located for 88.8% of the 1979 cohort, 92.7% of the 1980 cohort, 95.2% of the 1981 cohort, 95.9% of the 1982 cohort, 95.9% of the 1984 cohort and 95.8% of the 1985 cohort. Encrypted PHINs were used to identify individual students.

    Four variables were computed for school longest attended:

    1. The most frequently attended high school - the school number of the high school [i.e., grades S1 to S4 and special secondary (SS)], which a student attended most frequently.

      In the occurrence of a "tie", that is, if a student attended two schools equally often, the school that the student attended latest (for the higher grade) was selected. If the "tie" continued, the first school attended in the highest grade was selected. Home schools, summer schools, evening schools, and institutional schools were not included in the analyses. Likewise, students who were over 20-years-old as of December 31 in the school year were excluded from the analyses. Education data for the years 1992-1995 were not included because such data are incomplete and unreliable.

    2. Number of years attended - the number of years that a student attended the most frequently attended high school.

    3. Highest Grade - the highest grade that a student attended at the most frequently attended high school.

    4. Special Secondary Flag - this variable is a "Yes" or "No" variable which indicates whether or not the student was ever enrolled in special secondary (SS) education.

Related concepts 

Related terms 


  • Brownell M, De Coster C, Penfold R, Derksen S, Au W, Schultz J, Dahl M. Manitoba Child Health Atlas Update. Winnipeg, MB: Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, 2008. [Report] [Summary] [Additional Materials] (View)
  • Guevremont A, Roos NP, Brownell M. Predictors and consequences of grade retention: Examining data from Manitoba, Canada. Can J School Psychol 2007;22(1):50-67. [Abstract] (View)


  • education
  • Educational Measurement

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