3 Easy Steps to Ace Your Child’s School Transition

kids walking

As we reach the end of another summer PCS season, many military children are, once again, the new kid in school. Starting over in a new school is nothing new to most military kids, and usually the transition goes smoothly. Too often, however, military kids and their families run into road blocks as they try to settle into their new schools. In most instances, the culprit is policies and procedures in their new school district that are different from their old one. What can you do if you find yourself and your child in this situation?

Step One: Become informed

Military families should know there are resources to help them and their children resolve school transition issues. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children was created to do just that. It is an agreement passed into law by all 50 states and Washington, D.C. designed to smooth the transition for military-connected kids as they move to new school districts. Its goal is to get military children in their new classrooms quickly, ensure they are placed appropriately, and able to graduate on time. Some of the provisions include:

  • Kindergarten/first grade entrance. Children who were attending kindergarten or first grade in the old location should be allowed to enter the same grade in the new location even if they miss the new location’s age cutoff.
  • Immunizations. Schools should enroll children immediately even if they do not have all required immunizations. Families have 30 days to obtain the required immunizations.
  • Records. Schools should accept unofficial or hand-carried records rather than waiting to receive official records from the old school before enrolling the child.
  • Placement. If a child was enrolled in a gifted program or other specialized program, the new school should place him or her in a similar program. The school has the option to test the child later to make sure the child is placed appropriately.
  • Graduation. When possible, schools should waive graduation requirements when a child transfers during his or her senior year to ensure the student can graduate on time. Alternatively, the school can arrange with the previous school for the child to receive a diploma from the old location.

Step Two: Educate the educators

The Interstate Compact is a great tool that has helped resolve some of the most common obstacles military families face when moving to a new school district. However, too many military families, teachers, and school administrators are unaware that it exists, or don’t understand what the Compact is and what it covers. The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) maintains resources on its website to inform parents, teachers, and school administrators about the Compact and what it covers. Families can find printable brochures and other resources to share with teachers, administrators and others at their schools.

Step Three: Ask for backup

Most common school transition problems can be resolved by talking to your child’s teacher or school principal, referencing the Interstate Compact if necessary. Other problems are harder to solve. Families in this situation should consider reaching out to their local installation School Liaison Officer (SLO). SLOs can provide information and referral to local education resources and are available to assist families with transition issues.

Families can also turn to the MilitaryInterstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) for help with Compact-related issues. Under the terms of the Compact, each state must establish a state council in order to help raise awareness of the Compact and its provisions. The state councils are led by commissioners – typically state education officials – who can answer questions from families and schools about the Compact and also help resolve conflicts. You can find information about Interstate Compact officials in your state with MIC3’s interactive map.

Posted September 14, 2016

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