Educating the Military Child

Educating the Military ChildImagine Andrews is a unique school, in many ways, and each of its unique qualities will lead to higher levels of student achievement. Foremost, Imagine Andrews will serve as a national model of excellence for innovation in public school education for military bases and their surrounding communities across the country.

The military family is not unlike the civilian family who has children attending Prince George’s County Public Schools. Each wants the best education possible, in a safe disruption-free learning environment. However, there are many characteristics that make military families unique from their non-military counterparts.

Moving to a new school

This is not to say families in the non-military community do not move. But the military child will certainly face several moves within his or her K-12 educational experience, and many will move as often as every two years. Moving to a new school is a major event for children. They will experience many emotional ups and downs, from worry and sadness to excitement, curiosity, and hope. Stress is inevitable, and frequent changes in schools can create stress levels on many fronts: will the courses be the same, or will there be extracurricular activities and clubs that I like, or will I fit in?

Facing the potential loss of a parent during wartime

The military family faces a unique stressor that few non-military families will ever come close to experiencing: having a parent sent overseas to an active war zone. This stressor alone can impact the academic accomplishments of a child to the point where a student who normally has no problems with school work will start to struggle with even the simplest lessons. Currently, Andrews AFB has approximately 300 to 400 soldiers deployed to the areas of operation for Iraq or Afghanistan; many of these persons are the parent to a Prince George’s County student.

All children face certain conditions that cause stress while attending school. Many of these stressors are issues faced by public school teachers, counselors, and administrators on a daily basis; dealing with these common stressors can be accomplished by following specific policies and programs. However, there are unique stressors that children from military families face that are not easily dealt with by the school faculty and staff without specialized training and understanding.

Research Supports Demand

In fact, a growing body of research supports the demand for schools that address the individual needs of students whose parents are deployed in active war zones. Specifically, researchers have linked parental deployment (usually defined as “father deployment” or “father absence”) to several youth outcomes. These include:

  • depression, 1 2 3
  • acting out or negative behavioral adjustment, 1 3 4
  • poor academic performance, 4 5
  • increased irritability and impulsiveness, 1

A school that is established on the concept of working with the unique challenges faced by children from military families can help overcome the stressors that might impact the academic success of these children. Therefore, Imagine Andrews PCS incorporates a heightened understanding of the stressors facing the military student as part of its mission and into its professional development training. The faculty and staff of the school receive in-depth professional development on how to recognize the warning signs of the stressors faced by these students and how to help students deal effectively with their daily lives and improve their achievement. In addition, when the majority of the student body comes from like family circumstances (dealing with frequent moves and deployments to war zones) the students can become support partners for each other.

Educating the Military ChildIn order to ensure that our staff is properly trained, Imagine Andrews has partnered with the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DODEA), which manages education programs for eligible dependents of U.S. military personnel and civilians. The DODEA staff for more info about the group) will work with our teachers to share best practices from around the world that support educating students of military families.

We strongly believe that Imagine Andrews, taught and administered by educators who understand the challenging and stressful environment facing the children of military members every day, can serve other states and military bases as a solution to the growing crisis that is impacting these children.

Shut Out of the Military?

Military careers have provided generations of Americans with pathways to successful adulthood as well as honor, discipline, and achievement. Unfortunately, today too many high school graduates who seek the opportunity to serve don’t make the cut. According to a new study, “Shut Out of the Military: Today’s High School Education Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready for Today’s Army,” just as secondary schools are failing to prepare many students for college and civilian careers, so too are they failing to prepare young men and women—particularly young people of color—for military service. For these young Americans, a high school diploma does not qualify them to “be all that you can be.”

Consider the facts:

  • Among young high school graduates, about one in five do not meet the minimum standard necessary to enlist in the U.S. Army.
  • On average, young people of color are far more likely not to pass the qualifying exam than other applicants.
  • Candidates of color who pass often have lower scores than their white peers, excluding them from high-level training and advancement opportunities.
  • Wide disparities in eligibility by race/ethnicity between and within states provide a report card on how state educational systems do—and don’t—prepare different groups of students.
  • Because the test assesses many occupational skills, low scores mean these applicants are also unlikely to succeed in the civilian workforce.

The question to those of us who call ourselves educators is simple: Will we step up and squarely meet the challenge of ensuring that all of our students get the high-level skills and knowledge that they need for success beyond high school? This challenge, like so many that we face today, is indeed a steep one. But it is a challenge that we must meet—for the sake of our kids and our country’s security.

To read learn more the study, and to read the full article, which was written by The Education Trust, click here.

Community Outreach

In addition to addressing the individual needs of the military students, Imagine Andrews also reaches out to the larger community around Andrews Air Force Base. Not only do we educate and meet the needs of the military student, but we also invite students from the surrounding communities to attend and take advantage of our solid curriculum and challenging and rigorous instructional program.

More important, we understand that community support is important to make any school successful. Therefore, Imagine Andrews will seek a partnership with the military units on Andrews; with the businesses within Prince George’s County; and with the local schools and with Prince George’s County Public Schools as a whole. Ultimately, we desire to see not only the students of Imagine Andrews PCS progress to academic levels that will ensure their success in high school, college, and the work place, but also to see all children of Prince George’s County Public Schools have the same opportunities. With this in mind, we encourage the efforts of partnerships-in-education on Andrews to continue their practices of tutoring, reading, and supporting the schools in the community.

Substantial Effects

“Parental deployment has substantial effects on the family system, among them ambiguity and uncertainty. Youth in military families are especially affected by parental deployment because their coping repertoire is only just developing; the requirements of deployment become additive to normal adolescent developmental demands.”

Huebner AJ, Mancini JA, Wilcox RM, Grass SR, Grass GA.
Parental Deployment and Youth in Military Families: Exploring Uncertainty and Ambiguous Loss. April 2007. Family Relations, 56; pgs 112-122.

Useful Links

  • The Department of Defense Education Activity:
    The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) provides education and resources to more than 84,000 eligible DoD military and civilian children in 194 schools in 14 districts located in 12 foreign countries, seven states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
  • MD Offers Support:
    The effect of active duty deployment on military children has made such an impact on their overall ability to cope with day-to-day stressors, that the Maryland State Department of Education has dedicated a section of its Web site to address these needs.
  • Making a Compact:
    The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3) website is designed to better inform the public about the Interstate Compact for Educational Opportunities for Military Children and serve the needs of the families of our service men and women.
  • Helping Children Cope:
    The document, “Parents Called to Active Duty: Helping Children Cope,” offers suggestions for parents, teachers, and other caregivers to help children manage their feelings when a family member or loved one is deployed overseas.
  • The Military Child Initiative:
    This initiative, sponsored by The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, assists public schools to improve the quality of education for highly mobile and vulnerable young people with a special focus on military children and their families.
  • Military Kids Connect:
    MilitaryKidsConnect (MKC) is an online community of military children (ages 6-17 years old) that provides access to age-appropriate resources to support children from pre-deployment, through a parent’s or caregiver’s return. MKC offers informative activities, fun games, helpful videos, and interesting user surveys that can guide and reinforce understanding, resilience, and coping skills in military children and their peers.

Notes

1. Hillenbrand, E. D. (1976). Father absence in military families. The Family Coordinator, 25, 251- 258.

2. Jensen, P. S., Martin, D., and Watanabe, H. (1996). Children’s response to separation during Operation Desert Storm. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 35, 433-441.

3. Levai, M., Kaplan, S., Ackerman, R., and Hammock, M. (1995). The effect of father absence on the psychiatric hospitalization of Navy children. Military Medicine, 160, 103-106.

4. Yeatman, G. W. (1981). Parental separation and the military dependent child. Military Medicine, 146, 320-322.

5. Hiew, C. C. (1992). Separated by their work: Families with fathers living apart. Environment and Behavior, 24, 206-225.