Meeting the Challenges of Military-Connected Children

On July 9, 2013, Secretary Arne Duncan addressed participants at the Military Child Education Coalition’s (MCEC) 15th-Annual Training Seminar, “For the Sake of the Child,” in National Harbor, Md. The Secretary expressed appreciation for our service members and their families and acknowledged the personal sacrifices made by military-connected children. Organizations like the MCEC are focused on ensuring quality educational opportunities for all military children affected by mobility, family separation, and transition.

The Secretary noted that military-connected students face unique education challenges as the result of frequent moves and multiple deployments. Of the 1.2 million school-age children of military service members, nearly 80 percent attend public schools. Thus public schools are distinctively positioned to address the needs of these students at a pivotal point in their lives. The Common Core Standards, according the Secretary, can help to ensure that all students, regardless of where they attend schools, will receive a high-quality education. And they can particularly benefit the children of active-duty military members who move three times more often than their civilian counterparts.

The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, commonly referred to as “the Compact,” helps to ensure that the challenges faced by military-connected students are being met nationwide. Established in 2008, the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission oversees the Compact, and member states agree to address the challenges of military-connected children and their frequent relocations. It allows for uniform treatment as military children transfer between school districts and states. In April 2012, Secretary Duncan wrote a Dear Colleague Letter to chief state school officers to express his support for the work of the interstate commission in addressing issues concerning military-connected students.

Currently, 46 states are signatories to the Compact. However, many families and school districts with military-connected children are not yet fully aware of the benefits and supports afforded by the interstate agreement. The commission’s resource page provides information tailored for parents and guardians, schools, and administrators, as well as implementation guides and informative PowerPoint presentations.

From nurturing resiliency in children to developing partnerships among universities, the military, and local educational agencies, the MCEC training seminar provided participants with numerous opportunities and resources to facilitate improved outcomes for military-connected children. In addition, representatives, including Elisa Solomon, from the MCEC Student 2 Student (S2S) peer-mentoring program addressed seminar participants and provided personal stories of how S2S made a positive difference in their education experience.

The start of a new school year presents states, LEAs, and schools with an opportunity to reconsider the unique needs of military-connected students. As Secretary Duncan noted, ED and other federal agencies are helping to meet those needs because we know that supporting military families is critical to the future of our country.

This blog was authored by OII’s military liaison team.