4 hurdles facing students of active military families

Students have difficulty managing differing academic standards and school curricula
By: | October 19, 2020
Student of military families face the challenge of making friends in new schools, fitting in, building self-confidence and dealing with the deployment of a parent. (GettyImages/vgajic)Student of military families face the challenge of making friends in new schools, fitting in, building self-confidence and dealing with the deployment of a parent. (GettyImages/vgajic)

Children of U.S. servicemembers struggle to stay on track, with the typical student from a military family changing schools six to nine times between kindergarten and high school graduation, a new survey says.

The more than 5,100 military-connected students, parents and educators surveyed by the Military Child Education Coalition reported the following academic problems:

  • Difficulty managing differing academic standards and school curricula between states and schools: Concerns included gaps in education, lost educational opportunities such as Advanced Placement classes, and differing testing and graduation requirements.
  • Challenges faced by families with a special education student: 73% reported difficulties implementing a child’s individualized education plan at a new school.
  • Problems for school professionals tasked with managing transitions: 67% of educators reported not feeling confident about addressing graduation-waivers for students moving in their senior year; 44% were not confident about assessing transcripts from other schools.
  • Almost all educators said they believed military-connected students experienced higher stress than their civilian peers: 40% were not confident about advocating for these students and 45% were not confident about helping them prepare for college or careers.

An estimated 1.2 million children of active-duty military families are enrolled in schools in the United States and abroad.

In the survey, some 41% of military families felt that schools met their student’s needs.


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The respondents also listed several social-emotional concerns, including the challenge of making friends in new schools, difficulties fitting in, building self-confidence and dealing with a parent’s deployment.

“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,” said Becky Porter, president and CEO of the Military Child Education Coalition. “Military parents are sacrificing so much to serve our nation—we need to honor that service by supporting these kids.”

The coalition has been advocating Purple Star School Designation programs that ease the transition of military-connected students into new schools. Ten states—Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, South Carolina, Texas and Tennessee—have these Purple Star initiatives.

The designation lets military families know that a school will focus specifically on the academic skills and social-emotional wellbeing of  military students.


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