Switching Schools Again? Here’s Your Best Asset

As we celebrate the Month of the Military Child, it’s important to acknowledge one of the landmark achievements benefiting military kids and their families: the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. The Compact is an agreement between all 50 states and the District of Columbia designed to smooth the transition for military-connected kids as they move between school districts and states.

It’s a vital tool helping military kids succeed in spite of challenges, such as frequent moves and repeated deployments. However, the Compact can only succeed if parents, teachers, and school administrators know what it is and what it does. Too often, that is not the case.

What should military families know about the Interstate Compact?

The Interstate Compact addresses four key areas where conflicts often occur during school transitions: enrollment, eligibility, placement and graduation requirements. 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.

I’m not sure my child’s school knows about the Compact. What can I do?

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.

I don’t think my school is following the Compact. Where can I turn for help?

While the Compact has helped resolve many of the most common issues families face when transitioning to a new school, conflicts can still arise. Your installation School Liaison Officer (SLO) can often help intercede when this occurs.

Under the terms of the Compact, each participating state must establish a state council. These councils typically include state education officials, and must also include a military representative. When they are functioning effectively, state councils can play a key role in raising awareness about the Compact, answering questions about the Compact from families and schools, and helping to resolve conflicts. Unfortunately, not every state has been successful in establishing a functioning state council.

Has your military kid used the compact to help with transition? What was successful and what needs improvement? Tell us in the comments below:

Posted April 26, 2016

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