By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2011 – Nearly a year ago, I made the move from Virginia to Maryland and enrolled my children in their new school.
As in past moves, I immediately ran up against some school-transition roadblocks. My son wanted to join the after-school science club, but had missed the sign-up dates by a long shot. And since she wasn’t there for testing, my daughter had to wait months before she could be considered for an honors program.
These issues were an inconvenience, but since we don’t move that often, I figured they wouldn’t have a lasting impact.
It’s a different story for our military children who move multiple times over the course of their parent’s military career. One lost semester of an honors program due to missed testing dates may not add up to much, but how about six or eight missed semesters?
Fortunately, an interstate compact is helping to address these transition-related concerns for military parents. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children affects everything from school enrollment and eligibility to course placement and graduation. Since its inception in 2006, 39 states have adopted the compact, ensuring inclusion of nearly 90 percent of military children and teens.
The compact addresses military parents’ common concerns such as records transfer, which often takes weeks or months to occur. This delay in records transfer can cause a delay in course and program placement. Under the compact, however, schools must transfer records within 10 days.
The compact also requires the gaining school to presume students are qualified for an honors program if they were in a similar program in another school and there’s space in the gaining program. Students still can be tested, but won’t lose valuable program time in the meantime.
To ensure students have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, the compact requires schools to waive the deadlines or, if those dates are steadfast, to find an alternate way for the student to apply, such as taped auditions.
The compact includes many other provisions for military students, including those from National Guard and Reserve families. Parents and school officials should educate themselves about the compact, particularly as the new school year draws near, advised Ed Kringer, director of state liaison and educational opportunity for the Pentagon’s office of military community and family policy. And if they hit any roadblocks, he added, parents and guardians should talk to their local school liaison officer.
The big-picture goal of the compact, he said, is to alleviate parents’ education concerns and to keep families together. He would like to avoid situations in which the families choose to stay in one place while the service member moves to another to avoid school transition issues.
“That’s not what we want. … We don’t want to keep families apart,” he said. “We surely don’t want them apart because they’re worried about their children being put behind because they have to transfer schools.”
For more on the compact, read my American Forces Press Service article, “Interstate Compact Eases School Transitions” or visit the Department of Defense Education Activity’s website