Nearly 1 million military children attend public school in districts operated by local educational agencies. School officials increasingly are working to make the transition easier for military children when they move from one school to another because a military parent changes duty stations.
Groups such as the Military Child Education Coalition and the Military Impacted Schools Association have been working with schools on a variety of issues related to military children. Defense officials also have begun working with school districts that want to learn more about helping military children in transition and in dealing with aspects of the military lifestyle.
Some schools operated by local public school districts are physically located on military installations; but the Defense Department also operates schools on some military bases.
DOD EDUCATION ACTIVITY
Schools for children of service members and Defense Department civilians are located on a number of installations. The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) oversees these facilities, grouping them into two systems: the stateside Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS) and the overseas Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS). All schools within DoDEA are fully accredited by U.S. accreditation agencies.
Domestic schools. The Defense Department operates 64 DDESS schools, mostly elementary, at 17 installations in seven states, Puerto Rico and Cuba, with more than 2,300 education professionals serving about 26,000 students, according to November 2007 DoDEA statistics. The schools offer pre-kindergarten through 12th grade for eligible children who live on posts or bases.
Overseas schools. DoDDS-Europe operates 90 schools in five districts — Bavaria, Heidelberg, Isles, Kaiserslautern and Mediterranean — and serves about 38,000 school-age children of active-duty military and federal civilian employees.
DoDDS-Pacific serves more than 23,000 students enrolled in 45 schools across Japan, South Korea, Okinawa and Guam.
DoDDS is free for children of service members and federal civilian employees. Enrollment is guaranteed for “command-sponsored” children, those for whom the active-duty member has official approval to bring family members overseas at government expense. Children without command sponsorship can enroll for free if space is available. Nonmilitary children also can enroll if space is available, but they must pay tuition.
All DoDDS high schools are accredited by the North Central Accreditation Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. DDESS high schools are undergoing a phased accreditation by the NCA-CASI.
Beginning with the 2007-08 school year, the DoDEA high school graduation requirement is 26 credits for students, up from 24.
Special education programs. DoDEA provides free education to all students with disabilities who are entitled to enroll in the military’s overseas and stateside schools. The school system serves children with mild to severe disabilities. Programs are offered for children with learning, physical, communication or emotional impairments.
Preschool services are provided for disabled children as young as 3. Active-duty members must enroll children with disabilities in the Exceptional Family Member Program, which helps ensure the child’s educational and medical needs can be met.
All the services have the Exceptional Family Member Program, but they’re organized differently. The Army and Marine Corps have EFMP advocates in installation family centers, while the Navy and Air Force have EFMP programs and special-needs coordinators in their medical treatment facilities.
Contact: Department of Defense Education Activity, 4040 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA 22203-1635. Overseas schools, (703) 588-3051; Special education office, (703) 588-3148; http://www.dodea.edu
MilitaryStudent.org. The vast majority of military children attend civilian schools, and many make a transition every few years to another school when their military parent transfers to a new duty location. The Defense Department Web site http://www.militarystudent.org is designed for students, parents, educators and military officials, with information to help all those involved make the transition easier for the student, whether the child attends schools operated by the Defense Department or public school districts.
Military Child Education Coalition. Parents, students and educators can find a wealth of information about specific state requirements and other military children’s education issues at this group’s Web site, http://www.militarychild.org.
The MCEC looks at everything that affects education or other opportunities for military children from birth through post-secondary school — from emotional challenges related to school transitions or the deployment of a parent, to differences in state policies that make it difficult to transfer from one school to another.
All the military services, along with many school districts that educate large numbers of military children, participate in the coalition. The MCEC’s focus on partnerships encourages such flexible practices as helping a student meet graduation requirements when transferring late in a high school career.
MCEC’s SchoolQuest, at http://www .SchoolQuest.org, is an online tool for families on the move who want to learn about future schools that may fit the needs of their children. It asks questions about relocation plans and each school-aged child’s educational needs, then sorts through a database compiled by a team of researchers to present resources, contact information and transition advice about the school districts and schools that serve the selected military community.
SAT/ACT preparatory programs. Military families can get a free SAT or ACT preparatory program through a donation by professional football players who are part of the Victory Sports Group. Visit http://www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil; click on “Free SAT/ACT Prep Materials.”