The system dynamics approach is a holistic way of solving problems in real-time scenarios. This is a powerful methodology of modern Operational Research for framing, analyzing, and discussing complex issues and problems. System dynamics modeling is often the background of a systemic thinking approach and has become a management and organizational development paradigm. This paper proposes a system dynamics model for studying the factors that impact the academic performance of 1st to 8th grade primary school students residing in poor migrant neighborhoods. The data used in the model are based upon the perception of teachers who are the subjects of a survey conducted in public schools located mainly in the inner squatter and outer squatter districts of Turkish cities. Squatter districts are subjected to large shifts of population as a result of interregional and urban-rural migration, and they pose educational, social and behavioral challenges. The system dynamics model proposed here builds up relationships between variables that affect academic performance of migrant students. The goal of the model is to identify best government policies that might improve the system state in the minimum time span. System simulation results show that the government should implement policies that target many aspects of the system concurrently in order to improve student academic quality. (c) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.