Some military children are experiencing persistent Issues when they transition from one state to another with their families — whether it's eligibility for sports teams, acceptance of credits from previous schools, or placement in programs such as gifted and talented, according to a discussion during a packed session at the National Training Seminar of the Military Child Education Coalition.
The governing commission for the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, designed to help ease those transitions, tries to resolve issues in various ways, working with states and school districts and on a broader level.
The commission has recently been reaching out to the National Federation of State High School Associations, an association of high school athletic officials, to discuss some transition issues related to high school sports, said Rick Masters, general counsel for the Interstate Commission on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
"They are interested in trying to work with us," Masters said. He noted that in most states, high school athletics are not under direct control of the state department of education, although they use state funds are used to build fields, buy uniforms and equipment, and pay coaches. "I think most of these state athletic directors are at least willing to sit down and talk," he said.
As of 2015, the interstate compact has been adopted by the 50 states and the District of Columbia. States and school districts around the country are in various stages of implementing the compact, which aims to ease transition of military children from state to state in areas such as enrollment, eligibility, placement and graduation. States are in different stages of implementation, and parents are encouraged to try to resolve issues with their local school and school district before elevating issues to the national governing commission.
The vast majority of those who attended the MCEC session were school liaison officers, who serve as liaisons between parents, local schools and the military commands. Among other issues discussed were a military family that moved to a state that wouldn't honor the compact because they came from a Department of Defense school, and the Department of Defense Education Activity is not a state. However, DoDEA has also adopted the compact.
On the other hand, some military parents are apparently trying to "game the system," according to some of those who attended the session. In one case, when a child didn't meet the school district's requirements for entering kindergarten because of the entrance age, the service member took the child to his mother's residence in another state, enrolled the child in kindergarten for one day, then brought the child back to attend kindergarten near the current duty station.
Another attendee suggested a residency requirement related to previous kindergarten enrollment. But one school liaison officer noted that in some cases, dual-military parents who both deploy send their children to live with their grandparents and attend local schools in those areas, although the military family has not lived there.
A retired Air Force officer cautioned against making changes that would make it too difficult for those who want to use the system correctly.
PSAT 'military student identifier' will link with scholarships
Another initiative on the national level to increase opportunities for military children involves The College Board, best known for its development and administration of the SAT, PSAT and Advanced Placement program.
In an effort to connect more deserving military children to college scholarships they have earned, The College Board is asking every young person who takes the PSAT to indicate whether they are part of a military family, said David Coleman, CEO of The College Board.
With new partnerships between The College Board and scholarship providers, these providers will be able to go straight to families to provide them information about scholarship opportunities, said Coleman, who spoke at the National Training Seminar for the Military Child Education Coalition. Some scholarship providers target certain populations.
He said overall, an additional $180 million more will be offered in scholarships tied to the PSAT, which qualifies students to enter the academic competition for the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Coleman said students in the military community tend to do very well on the PSAT.
He also encouraged the group of about 700 people — students, educators, military installation school liaison officers, advocates and others — to let military families know about the free SAT preparatory course offered to all students in partnership with Khan Academy. Every student in the world has access to the materials, including full-length practice tests, video lessons, a daily practice app, and interactive problems and instant feedback.
By offering the test prep for free, The College Board hopes to level the playing field, accommodating students who weren't able to afford the high-cost test prep. "It's not just free, but it's the best test prep," Coleman said. Last year, the first year it was available, 1.5 million students signed up for the free test prep — an estimated four times the number who signed up for the test prep courses offered by private parties, he said.
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.