Academic Needs

Academically, military-connected students are often very adaptive and savvy about adjusting to a new school in the case of transition or to their school environment in the face of the stress of deployment of a family member. Some may deal well with practical problems associated with transferring their records, having to repeat classes, facing a delay in their graduation, or diminished opportunities to sign up for extracurricular activities. Still others may exhibit changes in behavior or academic performance during times of family changes due to deployment, an injured or ill parent, or reunification5 Statistically, military-connected students generally perform well academically. They also graduate at higher-than-average rates compared to their nonmilitary peers and have fairly sound support networks at home.6

Student Transitions

The family dynamic of military-connected children can change, however, over the course of a school year. As a parent is deployed, another family member may care for a child. In some instances, especially with high school students nearing graduation, parents may opt to leave the child with a guardian to finish out the school year while they move to another location. These changes are not always disclosed to existing schools and can impact student behavior and performance. School Liaisons can help administrators and teachers become aware of the likelihood of these changes and actively encourage the student’s guardian(s) to become aware of available resources and ensure proper services and support are provided consistently.

School Liaisons can help make parents aware of the potential impacts that moving from one school to another may have on their child. Some important aspects for School Liaisons to consider when working with military families facing transfer include the following:

School Schedules

Schools may operate on different vacation, start, and ending dates. Families that relocate during a school year or want to ensure their graduating senior meets exit exam requirements should consider schedules.

Graduation Requirements

Generally, the transfer and acceptance of education records in the U.S. can be a challenging process. Each state sets its own graduation requirements, usually specifying the number of courses a student must pass in each subject. In addition, 28 states require students to pass tests before graduating from high school. Each state’s test is unique, and the results are not necessarily transferrable from state to state.

Class Sizes

State and local regulations and collective-bargaining agreements dictate how large or small classes can be. Families will be well served by knowing this information so that they can make more informed decisions about the school they select for their child.

Curriculum Standards

Each of the 50 states determines student standards for learning—and in some cases makes decisions about the specific curriculum used in schools. More often, school districts select their own curriculum. Because each state has a unique set of standards, the requirements from grade to grade and from subject to subject are generally not comparable. Families should be made aware and understand the variations so that they know how best to prepare their child. (Note: With the adoption and implementation of the Common Core State Standards in most states, this problem should be significantly mitigated.)

Teacher Qualifications

Each state sets qualification standards for teachers. Understanding the relative differences among states can help families gauge how qualified teachers are in each subject being taught, especially in middle and high school. For example, some states require prospective teachers to earn a major in the subject, while others require a major and a passing score on a subject matter licensure exam.

Academic Performance

Every school district is required to report on the performance of students on state tests in reading/language arts and mathematics for all students and for subgroups of students. Module 7:  How School Performance Is Determined provides School Liaisons with more detailed information to help families understand how to use school performance data.

Extracurricular Activities

The requirements for participating in sports, arts, or other nonacademic programs can vary from one school to the next. Again, parents alerted to the receiving school’s criteria can make better decisions for their child, which can assist in creating a more seamless transition.

5. Educators Guide, op. cit.
6. Chandra, A., Sandraluz, L-C., Jaycox, L. H., Tanielian, T, Burns, R. M., Ruder, T., & Han, B.(2010). Children on the homefront: The experience of children in military families. Pediatrics, 125(1), 16–25.