School Climate & Safety

Schools to Begin Monitoring Students From Military Families

By Jane Meredith Adams & Edsource — June 07, 2016 4 min read

Schools across the country are preparing to formally track students from military families, monitoring their academic progress as they move from military base to military base and state to state, under a new provision in the main federal K-12 education law.

The change comes in response to concerns raised by the U.S. Department of Defense that the children of active-duty members of the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Marines have academic and emotional needs that schools are ill-equipped to meet.

At Chula Vista’s Veterans Elementary School, a new effort to support students from military families already is underway to help students like 5th grader Victoria Ayekof.

She had a rough start when she arrived last fall from a U.S. Navy base in Ghana, where her father was stationed. Veterans Elementary is Victoria’s fifth school in five years, and in the beginning the adjustment was tough.

Her mother, Joyce Ayekof, said school staff reported her daughter was “always isolated and crying.”

“You have to adjust, but it’s really hard to adjust,” Victoria said. “You miss your old friends.”

Military children move an average of six to nine times before high school graduation, according to the Defense Department, but repeating the social and academic upheaval doesn’t necessarily make it easier.

Having a parent away on military duty is a major stress on the family. Research has found that military children who have a parent deployed are more frequently diagnosed with acute stress, depression, and behavior problems than other children and that these mental health issues can affect learning.

Supporting Vulnerable Students

California is home to the largest number of active-duty military in the country, according to the Council of State Governments. Half of the state’s 60,000 military-connected students live in San Diego County, according to military officials.

But even there, school districts don’t always know which students are from military families or how to address the academic gaps and anxiety they are more likely to have, particularly in “outlier districts where there isn’t a concentration of military-connected children,” said Kate Wren Gavlak, the chair of the Military Interstate Children’s Copact Commission, a national organization run by the Council of State Governments.

The Every Student Succeeds Act—the federal law passed in December to replace the No Child Left Behind Act and that takes effect in the 2017-18 school year—includes new data and transparency requirements for states and districts when it comes to vulnerable groups of students, including those from military families.

Among those provisions, school-age children in military families will be assigned an identification number known as a “military student identifier” that will allow schools to keep tabs on test scores, graduation rates, and other metrics.

Implementation details have yet to be announced by the U.S. Department of Education.

The mental-health risks for these students can be serious. A 2015 study co-authored by Ron Avi Astor, a professor at the University of Southern California, found that California students in military families were more likely to have attempted suicide than students from civilian families, based on the California Healthy Kids Survey given to 390,000 high school students in 2012 and 2013.

Of students from military families, nearly 12 percent answered “yes” when asked if they had attempted suicide in the past 12 months, compared to 7 percent of students with civilian parents.

To help schools develop support systems, Astor leads the Welcoming Practices consortium, a Defense Department initiative of the University of Southern California and five districts: Chula Vista Elementary School, Bonsall Unified, Fallbrook Union High School, Oceanside Unified, and Temecula Valley Unified.

Welcoming Families

Among the recommended strategies are small changes, such as prominent displays of military family photographs, and more complex endeavors, such as creating a welcome center to smooth registration for newly arrived military-dependent students. At Veterans Elementary, a mobile app called WelConnect developed by the Welcoming Practices consortium, helps military families connect to programs and after-school activities run by their school district, the community, and the U.S. military.

While the districts in the consortium are ramping up, Silver Strand Elementary School in the Coronado Unified district has spent more than a decade building a comprehensive support system. The school abuts streets of tidy red-roofed Navy housing, and 80 percent of students are from military families.

“Most of them, through no fault of their own, come to us behind in academic performance and with gaps in their learning,” Principal Bill Cass said.

Funded by $6.5 million in federal grants over 10 years, the school has hired eight part-time specialists to work intensively with small groups of students on math, reading, and writing in every grade. There also is a full-time military family-life counselor, paid for by the Navy, who knows the students and their families and is available 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We want students to feel, first and foremost, welcome and secure,” Cass said.

As part of its program, Veterans Elementary recently hosted its first “Military Families Dinner.” Victoria and her mother attended.

Joyce Ayekof said her daughter’s initial struggles have eased. Victoria said she feels more comfortable, recalling the day her new classmates made a point of welcoming her in the cafeteria.

“I went to sit down at lunch,” she said, “and all the girls followed me.”

EdSource is an independent, nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage Californians on key education challenges. Read more at

An AP Member Exchange. Copyright 2016 EdSource. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
A version of this article appeared in the June 08, 2016 edition of Education Week as Military Students to Get Additional Supports Under ESSA


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor Invisibility to Inclusivity for LGBTQ Students
To the Editor:
I read with interest “The Essential Traits of a Positive School Climate” (Special Report: “Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals,” Oct. 14, 2020). The EdWeek Research Center survey of principals and teachers provides interesting insight as to why there are still school climate issues for LGBTQ students.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked
In states like Georgia, the push to empower the youth vote comes to fruition at a time when “every vote counts” is more than just a slogan.
6 min read
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Brynn Anderson/AP
School Climate & Safety Opinion The Pandemic Is Raging. Here's How to Support Your Grieving Students
What do students who have experienced a loss need in the classroom? Brittany R. Collins digs into the science.
Brittany R. Collins
5 min read
13Collins IMG
Benjavisa Ruangvaree/iStock