DoD Reaches Out to Military Children in Public Schools
By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 19, 2000 DoD's new Educational Opportunities Directorate hopes to provide for "quality education" of all 870,000 children in the military family - - not just the 110,000 who attend DoD schools.
"Our concern was that at any given time, we really weren't reaching all of our children," said Victor Vasquez, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. "Overall, we do very well for the children that are in our system, but we don't have them there all the time."
Vasquez stressed civilian schools do provide a quality education, but added "military children have other issues that they bring to the table."
He said the purpose of the new directorate is to "facilitate, advocate and support" open communications between DoD and local school systems. "What I see taking place down the road is a sharing and cross-fertilization of best practices," he said.
To get the directorate off to a good start and foster good communications, officials have scheduled a series of six regional roundtable discussions over the next two years. More than 100 state and local education experts, teachers, military parents and students, and DoD officials attended the first such roundtable in San Antonio in September.
Future roundtable discussions will be in Savannah, Ga., San Diego, the Virginia Tidewater region, Seattle, and a Midwestern site to be determined. Officials targeted areas with a high concentration of military bases.
Vasquez said the Texas officials were receptive to opening a dialogue with DoD, and they even pledged to start looking into a few issues that are particularly vexing to military families constantly on the move.
Some issues discussed at the Texas meeting were
- Reciprocity of standardized test scores. A student may get tested in one state, then move to another state and get tested again. "Will there be reciprocity for that process, or do our children spend their entire school careers being tested?" Vasquez said.
- Standardization of transcripts. "We want young people to know that if they get a grade in one school, it'll be similar to what's accepted in another school," he said.
- Continuity of extracurricular activities. "When young people are in transition, how can they continue an extracurricular activity from one school to another without being left out because they missed a tryout or because they missed a sign-up deadline?" he said.
"It was clear to me as I listened to this dialogue that they have worked with military children long enough to know that there are issues children from an average civilian community don't deal with," he said, adding that cooperation could do more than just help military children.
"Ultimately our goal is to build an education system that all will benefit from," he said. "In the long run, it will serve our nation better."