Erin Richards

In 2018, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel education reporter Erin Richards and her team of O’Brien student interns launched an online and print series called Lessons Lost. It examines the academic impact of student turnover between schools in Wisconsin and across the nation.

Despite targeted reforms and dedicated teachers, many underperforming schools are not improving. Richards’ series investigates one possible reason: high rates of student turnover between schools.

Across Wisconsin, about 10 percent of publicly funded students changed schools in a non-routine way between the 2016-’17 and 2017-’18 school years-- moving from one elementary school to another, for example, or changing schools mid-year. This churn can make it difficult for educators to build the lasting relationships with students that in turn make academic growth possible.

Marquette students Sean BlasheDiana DombrowskiMcKenna Oxenden and Patrick Thomas all contributed reporting to the series.

The team also collaborated with Milwaukee Journal Sentinel staff, including photojournalist Angela Peterson and data journalist Kevin Crowe. Additionally, special projects developer Erin Caughey and interactive news developer Andrew Mollica created multimedia data visualizations for the online piece.

The work published to date:

Oct 5

High student mobility in Milwaukee stalls achievement, despite well-planned school reforms

Oct 10

Student mobility numbers not tracked by many states

Oct 17

A Wisconsin city tackled school turnover like a health crisis. Things didn't go as planned.

Nov 5

Online schools: When kids churn, scores drop.

Dec 14

Free program gives parents personal advisers to help them choose good schools - and stay there

5 things that cities and schools are doing to reduce student transfers and improve education

Dec 28

Seven kids. Five homes. Nine schools. Two years in the life of a Milwaukee family.

Milwaukee students who don't switch high schools are more likely to graduate. Here's how one teen did it.