Imagine how your son or daughter’s education would be affected if they had to attend six to nine schools between starting kindergarten and graduating from high school.
This isn’t a nightmare scenario. It is the norm for a child in a long-term military family.
There are more than 1 million military-connected children in the United States. The majority of these students go to public schools.
I raised four such children. This included a son who actually went to four high schools in four years. Why? Military needs required the transfer of his parents, both Air Force senior non-commissioned officers, around the world, frequently.
When this happens, the education of these students can suffer. That’s why military families support high, consistent educational standards that ensure students are prepared for college or a career.
The advantages of high, consistent standards are obvious, but they elude many military children.
As the world becomes increasingly complex, our children will need certain basic math and language arts skills whether they follow a path to college, a vocational school or the military. High standards ensure they have the required skills so they can compete in the 21st-century economy or serve in a 21st-century military.
Moreover, as our society becomes increasingly mobile, more and more families find themselves in the same boat as military families. While non-military families do not move as often as military ones, they face many of the same problems.
Consistent standards ensure that when our children move from state to state or district to district, they avoid a situation where they find themselves behind their new classmates and having to scramble to catch up. Or worse, they find themselves bored senseless as they waste valuable time going over material they have already mastered.
In a perfect situation, a high schooler learning quadratic equations in Algebra 1 who transfers in the middle of a school year from Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana should be able to pick up where he or she left off with a minimum of disruption. And they would be held to the same standards. Of course, with 50 state education departments and thousands of local authorities that has been nearly impossible.
But high, consistent standards can lessen the jarring impact of a move — at least on the education side.
Over the last six years, the vast majority states — more than 40 — have adopted a variation of one set of high, consistent standards. These standards have many different names. But, they have two things in common.
These standards have all raised classroom expectations. They have also created greater comparability from state to state and district to district.
Like anything new, these new standards have not always been universally popular. But, for the most part, states have resisted efforts to water down or repeal them.
So far, this patience is paying off. In most states, there have been gains in proficiency rates in math and reading. This is especially true in early grades. This makes sense since these children have been taught using the standards for their entire educational career.
As a result, high, consistent standards remain popular with the public. According to the latest Education Next survey, about two-thirds of American parents support them. Other surveys show similar results.
The message for policymakers is clear. Keep the bar high and our schools will better prepare students for college and careers. Make the standards consistent and you give a big assist to our military-connected children.
It’s the least you can do to help the men and women of our military.