Thousands of military service members will soon be undergoing the all-too-familiar ritual of receiving their orders to move to a different region of the country as part of a permanent change of station (or PCS).
PCS orders, which peak around now, trigger a cascade of issues for those service members with a family and children in tow. And one of the most difficult of those issues for soldiers, sailors, marines or airmen with school-age children is the worry over ensuring consistent and high-quality education for them.
Terri Batschelet, a longtime educator and military spouse, said service members who are also parents are often gripped by concerns every time new orders come through.
“When a military family pulls up stakes and moves to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska from another facility in another time zone,” she wrote, “they shouldn’t have to roll the dice about whether their children will be set back in terms of education… U.S. military personnel and their families already sacrifice enough.”
But all too often, service members who receive their PCS orders do indeed roll the dice when it comes to the education of their children.
In large part, the concerns are a function of the mobile lives military families lead. What sets military families apart is that they are highly nomadic – Department of Defense dependents often attend as many as nine schools during their K-12 years.
As a result, more than one million military-connected children, most of whom attend public schools, change schools at a rate far exceeding that of their civilian counterparts. Their education can suffer as students are regularly put at a disadvantage of being either ahead of or behind their peers when they put down roots in a new school.
One of the problems is that parents in the military lack clear and practical information on how to manage these many school transitions. They end up relying on informal networks of other military families. While those networks are essential and can provide invaluable insights, much more is needed.
In an effort to minimize those disadvantages and help military parents and their children transition in and out of new school districts, several military spouses and military-focused organizations banded together to provide a concise guide for service members with children in the K-12 age range.
“A Military Family’s Guide to School Transitions” explains what parents need to know about a pending move and the impact on a child’s education. It provides helpful tips on the need to gather detailed school records, on connecting with school liaisons at military installations and reviewing a child’s curriculum at the old school and matching it against that of the new schools, and much more.
The Guide was compiled by military spouses with decades of experience moving their children in an out of schools because of ever-changing assignments.
“Moving to a new post can spark anxiety in military families over the quality of the schools in and around a military installation,” the Guide says. “But families with children in pre-K through high school can take certain actions to mitigate these concerns and help their children transition effectively to a new school.”
Among the groups that have endorsed it are the Association of the U.S. Army, the Air Force Association, the Military Child Education Coalition, the National Military Family Association, Military Families for High Standards, the National Math + Science Initiative, the Military Impacted Schools Association, the Military Officers Association of America and the Navy League of the United States.
The Guide is a go-to resource for families once the PCS orders are received. When the time comes to depart for a new locale, the Guide can better arm military families with battle-tested strategies so that they might make the best educational choices for their children.