Military children need consistent educations
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Our nation’s military families make incredible sacrifices to selflessly serve our country. Often, one of those sacrifices is the education of their children.

Unfortunately, it is the one issue that has proven the most challenging to address. Lack of consistent education standards should not be the cost to bear for so many of our military families. 

Did you know that the average military-connected child will move between six and nine times from the start of kindergarten to the end of high school? The military makes educating the one million sons and daughters of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines difficult by moving their parents so often. 

As both a general and a parent, I know this places significant stress on military children. Unfortunately, the average posting at a military base lasts between 18 months and two years. Thus, this disruption has been unavoidable.

State education systems have not made things any easier. Since each state has different education standards, they add additional stress to a military family's life when they move.

Take, for example, a young, military-connected student that takes a particular state’s reading test and is found to be a below-average reader. She is placed in a class that provides her extra support to catch up.

Several months later, that same student transfers to another state, takes that state’s reading test and is found to be an above-average reader. In this new state, she is placed in a class with accelerated readers.

Two tests within a matter of months will dramatically impact the way this child receives instruction. Her reading level hasn’t changed, just the state’s interpretation of her skills. 

Examples like this highlight the need for high, consistent education standards. Fortunately, more than 40 states are implementing such standards and making it possible for students to move, state to state, without having to re-learn old material or feel lost because their peers are three steps ahead. 

Since their launch, these standards have done two things. First, they have raised classroom expectations — we are now expecting our children to achieve more, ensuring that they will be ready for college or a career when they graduate from high school. 

Second, they have made standards more consistent from state to state, allowing military-connected students to take comfort in the fact that they are learning the same things as their peers when they enter a new school.

As a result, students are doing better, as measured by state test results, in math and reading. Third-grade students have seen their math scores increase by more than three percentage points over the past two years. This has occurred in all but a handful of states and includes military students.

The effort to make the life of military-connected students easier is still in its early stages, but the first results are promising. It is imperative for policymakers in these 40-plus states to continue to stay the course on their high, consistent standards. 

It is the least they can do for military families.

 

Gen. James “Spider” Marks is the former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center.


 

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