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Education Agency Looks at School Classes

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 27, 2001 – Students in Defense Department schools are seeing changes designed to beef up the curriculum and measure their accomplishments, said Elizabeth Middlemiss, associate director for education for the DoD Education Activity.

"We have wonderful programs in DoDEA, but we're in constant communication with schools and districts and areas and we're looking to see those pockets of excellence, finding the best that's out there and improving on it," she said.

Middlemiss said the agency has a number of initiatives in the works on literacy. These cover the gamut from preschool through Grade 12.

"Reading is involved in every segment of education," she said. "We're looking now to see at all levels what's in place, what's working well, what's working for those students who need additional help. Are there special programs that people have found out about that we can move to different schools?"

The agency is also looking at special programs for the top performers in the DoD schools. One program, for instance, offers high school juniors who score above 750 on both the math and verbal portions of the SAT to go to a special program offered by the Research Science Institute. "We also work to support gifted instruction at all levels in all areas of DoDEA," Middlemiss said.

Officials noted a high percentage of eligible DoDEA students -- some 61 percent -- take the SAT in the junior or senior years as part of their college preparations. So DoDEA has a program that pays for all its 10th graders to take the Preliminary SAT, a kind of dress rehearsal. The PSAT will be offered Oct. 16, and more than 5,000 DoDEA sophomores worldwide are scheduled to participate.

Middlemiss said the program gives parents and students information about basic performance, gives students real- life practice and, third, DoDEA can see where students are performing well and where the activity might provide additional support.

DoDEA is looking to expand distance learning opportunities for students and staff, Middlemiss said. Distance learning in the agency began a few years ago with DoDEA teachers developing courses they thought were appropriate. Over the summer, Middlemiss said, teachers from around the agency met to improve those projects and develop others. The agency is working with colleges to expand the program.

One program developed in Europe, on computer repair, has expanded throughout DoDEA. "It involves our own students teaching other students how to take a computer apart and repair it," DoDEA spokeswoman Pat Lambe remarked.

The next agency move will gather all system principals for a work session. "We look at the optimal high school program for DoDEA," Middlemiss said. "We will look at the programs as they currently exist, we will look at distance learning opportunities, we will look at a variety of transition issues that our youngsters face -- whether that's (moving between schools) within DoDEA or to schools outside."

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