A major new survey released by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) shows that military families and school professionals are struggling to keep the children of U.S. service members on track when they change schools due to a parent’s national service.
A typical child in a military family can expect to move six to nine times from kindergarten through high school graduation. With an estimated 1.2 million active-duty military-connected U.S. children enrolled in schools in the United States and abroad, the number of children impacted by these school transitions is significant.
The survey of parents, students and educators shows ongoing problems for students transitioning into new schools during their K-12 years. The primary academic problems reported by respondents included:
- Difficulty managing differing academic standards and school curricula between states and individual schools. Concerns included gaps in education, lost educational opportunities such as Advanced Placement classes, mid-year moves and differing testing and graduation requirements.
- Challenges faced by families with a special education student, with 73 percent reporting difficulties implementing a child’s individualized education plan (IEP) at a new school.
- Problems for school professionals tasked with managing transitions, with 67 percent reporting they were not confident in how to address graduation-waivers for students moving in their senior year, and 44 percent not confident in assessing transcripts from other schools.
- Some 97 percent of school professionals reported believing military-connected students experienced more stress and challenges than their civilian peers, while 40 percent also reported not being confident in their ability to advocate for policy on their behalf, and 45 percent not confident in helping them prepare for college or careers.
- Only 41 percent of military families felt that schools met their student’s needs.
The survey also identified several social-emotional concerns for military students who regularly transition in and out of schools. The top concerns included: the challenge of making friends in a new school; difficulties feeling accepted and fitting in with a new school and its culture; finding ways to build self-confidence; and, dealing with the deployment of a parent.
The full results of the survey are available here.
“This survey has allowed us to hear the voices of America’s military families,” said Becky Porter, President and CEO of MCEC. “The findings underscore that we must do more to ensure military-connected children receive the education they need to be work, college and life-ready. Military parents are sacrificing so much to serve our nation –we need to honor that service by supporting these kids.”
The survey was conducted between February and May and drew more than 5,000 responses from military-connected students (ages 13 and older) and their parents and the school professionals tasked with supporting them. The respondents included families connected to the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, and the responses came from U.S. personnel in all 50 states, two U.S. territories and a total of 21 countries.
In response to the survey results, MCEC is ramping up advocacy for the Purple Star School Designation program, an initiative designed to ease the transition of military-connected students into new schools.
Schools with the Purple Star designation let military members know that they are dedicated to helping their child gain the educational skills necessary to be life-, workforce- and college-ready. The designation also signals that a school supports the social and emotional well-being of military kids adjusting to new schools and the absence of a parent during deployment. These programs are so successful, searching for a Purple Star school is often the first thing service member parents do upon receiving Permanent Change of Station orders.
To date, 10 states — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee — have Purple Star School programs. MCEC has launched a major national effort to encourage all states to start their own program in support of military-connected students.