Compact Eases School Transitions for Military Children
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 8, 2012 Another state has joined an interstate agreement to ease school transitions for children from military families, bringing the overall tally of member states to 40, a Defense Department official announced yesterday.
With the addition of Pennsylvania, the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children now encompasses nearly 90 percent of school-age military children scattered across the nation, said Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy.
“The Department of Defense has always valued education for our children,” Gordon said in an interview at the Pentagon. “This partnership between the DOD and states is absolutely instrumental to the success of our kids and their education.”
The Defense Department, in collaboration with the Council of State Governments’ National Center for Interstate Compacts, developed the interstate compact in 2007 to ease military families’ challenges as they transition between school systems, whether it’s DOD schools, public schools on a military installation, or public schools in communities. By joining the compact, states agree to follow common guidelines in handling issues such as class placement, records transfer, immunization requirements, course placement, graduation requirements, exit testing and extracurricular opportunities.
Students often arrive at a new school and “find themselves being challenged and potentially put behind by … varying requirements,” Gordon said. “What we want to do with this compact is to minimize disruption.”
This effort is particularly important, Gordon noted, since the majority of military children aren’t in the DOD school system. Of the 1.2 million school-age military children, 1.1 million attend public schools, he said.
Additionally, the average military student faces transition challenges twice during high school, and most military children will attend up to nine different school systems during a parent’s military career, DOD officials said.
Frequent moves and deployment-related transitions are stressful events, Gordon acknowledged, as children face the challenge of making new friends and adjusting to new bases, cities and schools, while also, in some cases, enduring deployment-related anxiety. He can relate to this personally, he said, noting that as a military teen, he attended three different high schools and that his brother attended four.
Gordon said he’d like to see all 50 states join the compact. Their support is a vital component of military family support, particularly when it comes to their children’s educational success, he said.
“The Department of Defense has been committed to children’s education for a long time,” he said. “It’s extra special when we as partners with states are looking after the assurance of a quality education for military children.”
For more information on the compact and their state’s provisions, parents should contact their children’s school or military school liaison. States that are newer to the compact may not have all of the arrangements in place, so parents should check back periodically, Gordon suggested. To locate a school liaison, visit http://www.militaryinstallations.dod.mil.
Parents also can find information online at Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission at http://www.MIC3.net.