DoDDS to Meet National Standards
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 1997 DoD Dependents Schools students will be among the first to take nationally standardized exams as part of a campaign to make American education the world's best.
Education is a top priority because it holds the key to America's future in the 21st century, President Clinton said. Clinton promoted his national education goals during a March 13 trip to North Carolina. Defense Secretary William Cohen and Education Secretary Richard Riley accompanied the president, who called for schools throughout the nation to meet national standards in reading and math.
"We have to have a nation in which every 8-year-old can read independently, every 12-year-old can log onto the Internet, every 18-year-old can go on to college and every adult American can keep on learning throughout an entire lifetime," Clinton told state legislators in Raleigh. We have to meet our national goal of connecting every classroom and library to the Internet by the year 2000."
Maryland, Michigan and North Carolina were the first three states to volunteer to give standardized exams in fourth grade reading and eighth grade math. DoDDS officials asked that their students be among the first to take the tests, Clinton said.
DoD's 66 stateside and 167 overseas dependent schools educate about 115,000 children each year, the president said. These schools provide a good kickoff point for the standards movement because military children come from every racial and ethnic background, and they change schools often as parents move from base to base, he said.
"Because of this mobility," the president said, "no groups of students better underscore the need for common national standards and a uniform way of measuring progress. If standards can work in these schools, they can work anywhere."
Starting in 1999, students from Wiesbaden Air Base, Germany, to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, will learn the same material and take the same national tests as students in North Carolina, the president said.
"We can make our public schools just like our military, the best on Earth, if, like our military, we are willing to adhere to high, rigorous standards for all people, regardless of their background," he said.
DoD's leadership is deeply committed to providing quality education for service members and their children, said Cohen. "We look forward to participating in the president's initiative on national standards of excellence in education," he said. "This is going to help gauge the performance of our students by both national and international standards."
DoDDS will serve as a model for the rest of the country, Cohen said. "We are doing exceptionally well now, and we want to prove to the country that we certainly can meet any national or international standard. If we can do that in the military schools, we can do it anywhere in the country."
In 1995, DoDDS issued rigorous academic standards as part of a comprehensive improvement plan, Cohen said. "They have started to raise graduation requirements even further in all overseas high schools. They have established home-school partnerships to bring parents into the educational decision-making process."
DoD's fourth grade students rank eighth among 48 jurisdictions on standardized math tests, Cohen said. Earlier this year, North Carolina's governor awarded Fort Bragg schools the Excellence in Education Award for early childhood education. The Department of Education gave national excellence awards to Lejeune's elementary and middle schools. Lejeune high school is the top-scoring school in North Carolina on the American high school mathematics exam.
Cohen attributed DoDDS success to involved parents. "These programs cannot succeed unless we have the active engagement of parents working with their children," he said. "One of the reasons our students and schools score so well is that parents also take education of their children and of themselves very seriously."
About 95 percent of all recruits hold high school diplomas compared to about 75 percent of America's youth, Cohen said. Most recruits enroll in the Montgomery GI Bill, which provides money for advanced education.