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DOD Supports Military Children in Public Schools

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2010 – Department of Defense Education Activity officials are sharing cutting-edge resources and training tools with public schools supporting military families, particularly those heavily affected by deployment, an education official said.

“Our goal is to reach military children who attend public schools,” Kathy Facon, the activity’s chief of educational partnership, said in an American Forces Press Service interview. “We want to make sure that what’s good for our students is good for them too.”

Most recently, officials offered up their latest special education training tools to public schools supporting military children after receiving rave reviews from their own teachers.

The program includes 16 training modules developed in cooperation with top experts in the special education field, David Butler, an education data specialist, explained.

The modules cover a broad spectrum of topics including mediation and conflict resolution, classroom behavior management strategies and effective strategies for students with math difficulties, as well as a module on autism spectrum disorders.

Teachers can self-pace through the modules, or a facilitator can use the guide to present to several teachers. The modules also can be modified for specific needs or specialties.

“The modules were developed so they could be used on a widespread basis,” Facon said. “Much of the information can be applied to any teachers, not just those in special education.”

Also aimed at supporting public schools, the education activity offers a robust grant program to school districts across the nation. In the past two years, the activity has awarded $96 million in grants to about 80 school districts, Facon said.

Officials have reached out to districts that have been affected by deployments or are in locations where education options are more limited for military families, she explained.

Most of the grants are focused on academics to improve student achievement, but also include resources for additional counseling support, virtual learning opportunities and professional development for the teaching staff.

Facon also highlighted an online resource called “Students at the Center” that benefits both military families and the schools they attend.

For military parents, the resource offers tips on navigating the public education system, as well as information on report cards, school performance and district achievement levels. For school leaders, it offers information on military families, particularly in regard to education and readiness, and how they can facilitate a safe and stable environment for military students. And military leaders can, for instance, find information on providing outreach to school boards.

“We’re very proud of this resource,” Facon said. “We’ve brought information that was available in many different formats into one location.”

To improve the one-on-one support to military families, the education activity is boosting training efforts for school liaison officers. Liaisons are the local, on-the-ground points of contact for parents, the command and school districts on all issues related to education from kindergarten through 12th grade, Facon explained.

Liaisons often have varying levels of knowledge on how education works, she acknowledged, and a lack of information can result in misinformation. To remedy this, the activity is developing online supplemental training that can be downloaded and customized to suit local needs.

“We want to help liaison officers to do their job better and have a single voice on topics,” Facon said.

Also aimed at cooperation with public schools, the education activity serves as an ex officio member of the Interstate Compact on Education Opportunity for Military Children Commission. The compact is an agreement among states to ensure the smooth transition of military children between schools. The compact works to ease issues surrounding records transfer, graduation requirements and course sequencing, among others. So far, 35 states have signed the compact.

Activity officials are working to develop training and marketing materials to help states and school districts implement compact guidelines.

These efforts combined are having a positive impact on schools across the nation, Facon said, and the relationships they’re building can prove to be mutually beneficial.

“Many public schools have fabulous programs that we can replicate as we share our own programs,” she said. “Within DODEA, we want students to be performing to their best potential, and we want to make sure students from military families can do that anywhere.”

For more information on the education activity’s training and products, visit http://www.militaryk12partners.dodea.edu.

 

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