Ensuring consistent and high-quality education for school-aged children is a struggle for parents in the civilian world.
But it is even more so for military families because of the constant moves from base to base and school district to school district.
What sets military families apart in terms of the education of their children is that they are highly nomadic — military-connected students attend as many as nine schools during their K-12 years.
As a result, more than one million military-connected children, most of whom attend public schools, change schools at a rate far exceeding that of their civilian counterparts.
The education of military-connected children can suffer as students are regularly put at a disadvantage of being either ahead of or behind their peers when they put down roots in a new school.
For Melissa Helmick, an Army spouse of 37 years, the mobility of military life added a major stress unfamiliar to most Americans.
“We moved every two to three years to a different part of the country or another continent,” said Helmick, a member of the education group Military Families for High Standards. “The pace presented challenges as my children navigated new school systems while, we hoped, gathering sufficient knowledge and ability to succeed in college.”
In an effort to minimize those disadvantages and help military parents and their children transition in and out of new school districts, several major organizations have banded together to provide a concise guide for service members with children in the K-12 age range.
“A Military Family’s Guide to School Transitions” explains what parents need to know about a pending move and the impact on a child’s education. It provides helpful tips on the need to gather detailed school records, on connecting with school liaisons at military installations and reviewing a child’s curriculum at the old school and matching it against that of the new schools, and much more.
“Moving to a new post can spark anxiety in military families over the quality of the schools in and around a military installation,” the guide says. “But families with children in pre-K through high school can take certain actions to mitigate these concerns and help their children transition effectively to a new school.”
Led by Military Families for High Standards, the guide was compiled by military spouses with decades of experience moving their children in an out of schools because of ever-changing assignments. Among the groups that have endorsed it are the Air Force Association, the Association of the U.S. Army, the Military Child Education Coalition, the Military Impacted Schools Association, the Military Officers Association of America, Mission: Readiness, the National Math + Science Initiative, the National Military Family Association and the Navy League of the United States.
The guide was an outgrowth from a research effort that the Collaborative for Student Success sponsored earlier this year. In an assessment of several states with large military populations, the Lexington Institute found that military families face many education obstacles, with the performance of students varying dramatically depending on geography.
Military Families for High Standards hopes that the Guide to School Transitions will be among the resources a family turns to when the time comes to depart for a new locale, that it will better arm military families with battle-tested tips so that they might have all the necessary information to find the right school or program for their children.
Terri Batschelet, a longtime educator and military spouse whose two children each attended eight different schools, captured the added anxiety that grips military parents every time new orders come through – anxiety that the guide can temper.
“When a military family pulls up stakes and moves to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska from another facility in another time zone,” she wrote, “they shouldn’t have to roll the dice about whether their children will be set back in terms of education… U.S. military personnel and their families already sacrifice enough.”
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