Get Battle Ready

StandardsIt’s important to know about the state you live in, or where you’re moving. Though the Interstate Compact aims to eliminate the roadblocks associated with differing school districts, gaps in state standards still exist.

What are the standards in your state? How do you know if your school meets those standards?

Academic standards set the benchmark for the skills your child is expected to master in each grade. Most states have adopted a version of the Common Core standards, but there are a few who have not. Before you PCS, take time to learn about the standards in your new state and figure out if your child is where she needs to be or if she will have some catching up to do.

You’ll also want to know if your child’s new school is doing a good job helping students meet the standards or if some children are falling behind. Your new state’s Department of Education is a great place to start to find out more about the standards your child’s school will be expected to meet.

What can I do if my child is struggling because of different standards?

Your child’s teacher can be a great resource to help with this. Consider scheduling a meeting with your child’s teacher before you PCS to discuss the standards in your new location and how they compare to what your child is doing in class.

If your child has some catching up to do, there are great online resources to help them.

  • Learning Heroes
  • Blog: “My Military Kid is Still Struggling in School: Now What?”
  • Blog: “8 Tips for Teachers of Interesting, Resilient Military Kids”

Who can help me fight for my child’s education?

Not all challenges that military-connected students face can be solved by a parent alone. If you’re not sure how to start advocating for your child, there’s help. From resources on your installation to contacts you can reach out to at a higher level, gathering the right people in your corner will make the battle that much easier.

The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children has been adopted by all 50 states and Washington, DC. Each state has a commissioner responsible for implementing the Compact in his or her state. They are available to help families confronting school transition issues.

Your installation School Liaison Officer (SLO) is also a great resource to help overcome transition-related challenges. SLOs can help you understand school policies, identify resources in your new community, and help you understand your rights under the Interstate Compact.

  • Blog: “My School Liaison Officer is my Hero”
  • Blog: “How to PCS with Your Military Kid’s IEP or 504 Plan”
Emotional StrugglesMilitary-connected students will move three times more often than their civilian peers. Losing friends made in school can be devastating, and as a result, some children struggle to find meaningful connections when they move to a new place. Social and emotional scars leave military kids feeling isolated and misunderstood, even resulting in learning difficulties.

Is your military child having a tough time socially or emotionally?

As parents, you spend a lot of time thinking about your kids’ academic achievements. But for a kid, sometimes the hardest part about moving is having to say goodbye to old friends and figure out how to fit in at their new school. What can you do to help your child cope?

  • Find out if your school has programs to support kids through transition
  • Blog: “6 Tips to Ease Your Military Kid Through Transition to a New School”
  • Blog: “Dear Teacher: It’s my Military Child’s First Day of School”
  • Video: “The Big Moving Adventure”
Home schoolMore than 6% of military families choose to take schooling into their own hands, whether through homeschooling or joining co-ops in their local community. Removing the barriers that create educational instability for children can often produce great results.

What do military families need to know about homeschooling?

High SchoolHelping Your High Schooler through School Transitions: Issues to Consider;

AP? IB?: Is your child taking academically demanding courses such as Advanced Placement (AP)? Is she enrolled in a specialized curriculum like the International Baccalaureate (IB)? Does her school offer dual-enrollment classes that provide college credit? Be aware that not every high school offers this level of academic rigor. If this is a concern for your family, research high schools in your new location carefully to find one that offers programs similar to what was available in your child’s former school.

Keep in mind that course registration typically happens in the spring and it can be hard to track down school personnel in the summer, so don’t wait until August to get in touch with the guidance counselor at your child’s new school. Reach out early to establish a connection and find out what classes they recommend for your child.

Weighted grades: Many high schools provide additional weight to honors or AP classes, so an “A” in a rigorous class is worth 4.5 or even 5.0 on a four point scale. However, military families often find that schools refuse to accept the weighted grades and recalculate their children’s GPA accordingly. Particularly in schools that rank students (not all do), parents worry about what effect this recalculation will have on their children’s college acceptance chances. Parents should know that this is a common practice and not covered by the Interstate Compact. In addition, colleges also look at unweighted grades.

Graduation requirements: Every state has its own graduation requirements. Don’t assume that the requirements in your new state will be the same as in your previous location. Your new state’s Department of Education  can provide detailed information about its graduation requirements.

If you move during your child’s senior year and it will be impossible for her to meet the new state’s requirements and still graduate on time, the Interstate Compact offers some protection. Under the Compact, schools can waive graduation requirements in order to allow the senior to graduate on time. If the school is unable or unwilling to waive the requirement, you can arrange for your student to receive a diploma from her old school – and still walk in graduation.

College applications: Moving before your child’s senior year? Plan ahead for those all-important teacher letters of recommendation. Encourage your child to reach out to one or two teachers before your move to ask if they would be willing to submit a letter on your child’s behalf.

During the teenage years, friendships are crucial, clubs and sports are important, and school transitions become tougher than ever. The issues military-connected high school students face are some of the most complex.

How do we help military kids succeed during high school?