Federal

Schools May Track Military Students’ Progress

By Sarah D. Sparks — May 03, 2011 5 min read
Advanced Placement chemistry teacher Stacy Stoll, second from left, guides students Lissa Haddock, Brandon Pope, and Morgan O’Quain through a titration experiment at Harker Heights High School, near Fort Hood, in Harker Heights, Texas. The district is taking part in a pilot project this year aimed at increasing AP science enrollment among children of military families.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The increased federal focus on military children may lead to more detailed tracking of how they fare academically in schools located off base.

As part of a joint tour promoting military families, first lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, a community college instructor and the wife of Vice President Joe Biden, are calling for more targeted support services for military students and better access to rigorous curricula. Yet a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office suggests it may be hard to identify and serve highly mobile military students.

The GAO reported in March that the inability to track military students’ progress made it difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of the $1.3 billion federal Impact Aid grant program. The main grants compensate school districts for property tax lost due to the presence of federal property, such as a military base, in their taxing districts. Schools in which 20 percent or more of the students come from military families get supplemental grants from the U.S. Department of Defense. These Impact Aid grants are among the most flexible federal grants, and can be used for anything deemed to support the students, from teacher salaries to a new heating system.

Yet in the study of 118 of the 154 Impact Aid schools with high concentrations of military students, GAO researchers led by George A. Scott, the director of education, workforce, and income security issues for the office, found that fewer than 20 percent of the districts surveyed separately tracked their spending to support military students, and none tracked how military students as a group fared at their schools.

Senior Sarah Marquardt works on her titration experiment in the same AP chemistry class.

“The department shares the concern ... that some military children may struggle academically as a result of varied academic standards from state to state and a lack of connection to the school community resulting from their mobility,” wrote James H. Shelton, III, the U.S. Department of Education’s assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement, in responding to the GAO report.

In the next iteration of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Education Department has proposed to require schools, districts, and states to report the achievement of military students, Mr. Shelton said. The Department of Defense tracks the achievement of students in its 194 schools on military bases around the world, but the majority of children of service members and civilian Defense Department employees attend regular district schools.

Like data reported by gender or migrant status, military student achievement would be reported publicly, but it would not be used to calculate a school’s adequate yearly progress under ESEA. Creating a military-student group would allow educators to identify where military students have the most academic problems and why and target services to them.

Hidden Students

As a group, America’s 1.1 million students from military families can look a lot like other vulnerable student populations, with high mobility leading to academic struggles or anxiety over a missing parent and financial instability leading to emotional problems. Unlike other student groups, military students’ struggles may be harder to see in district schools, because schools are not required to report them separately.

“We’ve got a lot of anecdotal info on how military students do in academics, but since they’re not included as a separate group, there’s really no way of knowing,” said David Splitek, the vice president for programs and services for the Military Child Education Coalition in Harker Heights, Texas, a national nonprofit that provides educational information and support for military families.

For example, he noted that most education research on highly mobile students focuses on children whose families are moving for economic reasons, often within the same school district. In contrast, students in military families move as their parents receive new assignments, often to different states.

“The longer the parent stays in the service, the older kids get, and the more they’re going to move. By the time they are in high school, they probably have six or seven moves under their belts,” Mr. Splitek said. “When I was a superintendent at a school with 100 percent military kids, we had kids who were coming to us as their 12th school, when they were seniors.”

Interviews with school officials bore out those concerns in the GAO report: 80 percent reported “moderate” or “extreme” academic problems caused by differences in curricula among districts or states, and more than half reported students of military families had behavior problems and seemed disconnected to the school because of their frequent moves. A recent study by the RAND Corp.’s Arroyo Center, in Santa Monica, Calif., found increasingly long parent deployments can exacerbate both academic and behavior problems. (“Parents’ Deployments Found to Exact a Toll on Students’ Learning,” April 20, 2011.)

Easing Access

Thomas W. Luce III, the chief executive officer for the Dallas-based National Math and Science Initiative and a former U.S. Department of Education assistant secretary, said he has noticed the disconnect for military students, too. His group, which provides training and teacher incentives for schools offering Advanced Placement courses in math and science, noticed that students in military families often have more intensive parental support for the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

“They hear from their parents that your life might depend on science and technology one day, so they get it,” Mr. Luce said. But their mobility gives them more-limited access to advanced courses. For example, a student may take an AP physics course in one school, but transfer to another school that either does not offer the class or requires different prerequisites.

As a result of its observations, NMSI launched a pilot program to increase military students’ AP enrollment in the 2010-11 academic year at two high schools near Fort Hood in Texas and two near Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

The AP courses in the pilot program are open to all students, not just those from military families, Mr. Luce said. But, as part of the program, the schools, which are not normally required to report their military students’ progress, must provide separate data on that group. Teachers receive a bonus for every student who scores at least a three out of five on an AP exam.

Since last September, the total AP enrollment at the four initial schools has risen from 600 to 994 students, and NMSI has won support from the Defense Department and private donors to expand the program to 28 schools, serving an additional 40,000 high school students next year.

“We believe if we get in all 150 schools” with high concentrations of military students, Mr. Luce said, “the vast preponderance of students in military families, if they do transfer, they are likely to transfer to another one of our schools, and can pick up where they left off.”

A version of this article appeared in the May 11, 2011 edition of Education Week as Schools May Track Military Students’ Progress

Events

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.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
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.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal What’s Behind the Push for a $60K Base Teacher Salary
When reintroduced in Congress, a bill to raise teacher salaries will include money to account for regional cost differences.
5 min read
Teachers from Seattle Public Schools picket outside Roosevelt High School on what was supposed to be the first day of classes, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Seattle. The first day of classes at Seattle Public Schools was cancelled and teachers are on strike over issues that include pay, mental health support, and staffing ratios for special education and multilingual students.
Teachers from Seattle Public Schools picket outside Roosevelt High School on what was supposed to be the first day of classes, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022, in Seattle. The first day of classes at Seattle Public Schools was cancelled and teachers are on strike over issues that include pay, mental health support, and staffing ratios for special education and multilingual students.
Jason Redmond/AP
Federal Teachers Shouldn't Have to Drive Ubers on the Side, Education Secretary Says
In a speech on priorities for the year, U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said teachers should be paid competitive salaries.
5 min read
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers a speech during the “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” event in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2023.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona delivers a speech during the “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” event in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24, 2023.
Sam Mallon/Education Week
Federal A Chaotic Start to a New Congress: What Educators Need to Know
A new slate of lawmakers will have the chance to influence federal education policy in the 118th Congress.
4 min read
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks on the House floor after the first vote for House Speaker when he did not receive enough votes to be elected during opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023, in Washington.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Jan. 3 following the first round of voting for House Speaker. McCarthy fell short of enough votes to be elected speaker in three rounds of voting on opening day of the 118th Congress at the U.S. Capitol.
Andrew Harnik/AP
Federal Historic Changes to Title IX and School Safety Funding: How 2022 Shaped K-12 Policy
Federal lawmakers sought to make Title IX more inclusive, respond to school shootings, and crack down on corrupt charter schools.
6 min read
Revelers march down Fifth Avenue during the annual NYC Pride March, Sunday, June 26, 2022, in New York.
Revelers march down Fifth Avenue during New York City's annual Pride March in June. Proposed changes to Title IX would explicitly protect students from discrimination based on their gender identity or sexuality.
Mary Altaffer/AP