Educational Opportunity for Military Children

Courtney Williams's picture
Friday, March 30, 2012

For half a decade now, Congress has failed to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind. The principal stumbling block has been how to rewrite the law's accountability requirements for student achievement. That's certainly a debate worth having. But the continuing disagreement has had an unfortunate consequence. It has foreclosed an opportunity to help one the most neglected populations in public education: military students.

The vast majority of the 1.2 million school-aged military children attend public schools. While there are schools that are models of how to support military students, most are still not equipped to help these students manage the stresses of military life: adjusting to new schools year after year because of their parents' changing deployment orders; dealing with a revolving door of friendships; handling the possibility of a parent's death. Worse, many school districts, including some near military bases, have no idea if there are military students in their classrooms, let alone how many. How can schools support military students if they don't know who they are?

Such neglect may affect many military students' performance in public school classrooms. A Rand study released last year focused on military students' achievements in North Carolina and Washington state, both home to big military bases. It found that the reading and math scores of these students were significantly lower than those of their civilian peers, and that the achievement gap was greater the younger the student was.

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