The Challenges Military Children Face in Public Schools
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The Challenges Military Children Face in Public Schools

– There are more than one million children whose parents are on active
military duty in the US, most of whom attend public schools. They average six to nine moves before the end of high school. It’s also common to have a parent gone for long periods of time. Some schools don’t know
who these children are or how to support them, but
that is starting to change. Kavitha Cardoza with our
partner Education Week has our weekly segment Making the Grade. – [Kavitha] Children from
Shelton Park Elementary School have been working with a
nearby military installation on an oyster restoration project. Many are military children. They’ve spent months measuring
and graphing their results. – It looks like it’s at 15.
– So it’s 4015. – Base Commander Joey Frantzen says these educational
partnerships are a win-win. Oysters help filter the water
his troops train in and. – The kids get the opportunity
to learn about oysters, and it really helps the base. – [Kavitha] More important, he says, these interactions help
school staff understand some of the challenges
military children face. – At one point, my boys had
been in five different schools in like a two-and-a-half year period. And so having that and having a community and a school system
understand that dynamic really allows those children
to be able to come in, so that they aren’t lost. – [Kavitha] Frantzen says
knowing their kids are supported helps service members
concentrate on their jobs and stay in the military. But because, nationally, less than 1% of the US population serves, these children’s challenges
often go unnoticed. Teacher Cynthia Dufour
says her military students bring different perspectives
to class discussions. – They just are so used to
moving and going new places, so the curiosity is kind
of ingrained in them. – [Kavitha] But for these
children who are just 10, moving doesn’t always feel positive. – I started in Italy, and
then I moved to New York, and then I moved to Virginia. – I always make friends,
and then I have to leave. – Military children, they
move and move and move, and that doesn’t really
make me happy at all. – [Kavitha] Frequent
transitions can also mean an inconsistent and uneven education. Eileen Huck with the National
Military Family Association says that’s because public
schools vary so much. Some have many military children. – They set up welcome
centers for families. Garrison commanders are
members of the school board. But we also have school districts that have just a few
military-connected kids, and it can be more difficult for teachers and school personnel in those situations to recognize the needs of those kids. – [Kavitha] A federal
report found there are no national public data on military dependent students’ academic progress, attendance, or long-term outcomes, such as college attendance
or workplace readiness. Advocates hope having
a military identifier on enrollment forms will help
track how well public schools are meeting these students’ needs. – We’re one of the
largest military-connected school divisions in the country. – [Kavitha] Aaron Spence is superintendent of the Virginia Beach City
Public School District. Almost a third of the
approximately 70,000 students here are military children. Educating them can be challenging. – Figuring out their transcripts, what are the classes that
they may have taken elsewhere that we don’t offer here. And we have a different
curriculum in Virginia than much of the country. And so students might come in, and their parents will want to know, “Well, if my child is in third grade math, “are they learning the same
thing that they were learning “when they were in third
grade math in California?” – [Kavitha] Amanda Yoder
is a school counselor and a Navy combat veteran. She’s hired by the district specifically to support military children. Yoder says it’s tough
always being the new kid. – So the biggest thing that we hear is, “Who am I gonna eat lunch with?” They’re worried about making friends. Is the sports team already
full when they arrive? It’s really important that we
get those who haven’t serviced and don’t have a connection involved and trained to understand
terms and emotions. – [Kavitha] Virginia Beach
schools have several programs to celebrate these children, art displays, military partnerships, outings to bases, and a day when everyone wears purple. – It’s their life. It’s what they experience,
so we want to recognize that. – [Kavitha] Principal Tara
Brewer loves the diversity and experiences her
military students bring. But, as a school administrator, it also means frequent testing
and re-teaching lessons, because students arrive
in the middle of the year. Other times, it means getting creative. For example, one of her students was taking standardized tests when her father was
deployed in the Middle East. – So, every morning, we’ve
either set up a situation where he can Skype her,
wish her luck on testing, or like, when she gets here, the teacher will text
him, and he will call. – [Kavitha] Another challenge
is having parents deploy, often to war zones. That can lead to children getting upset or acting out in school. Some schools in Virginia
Beach have afterschool clubs where civilian children can
support their classmates. – My friend in the military moved away, and his dad was deployed,
so, sometimes, he would cry. – This is a With You All the Way kit and this is dealing with deployment. – [Kavitha] Research
shows, when schools offer an understanding environment, it can have a protective effect. – You need to have on a collared shirt with either a tie or bow tie. – [Kavitha] This year
was especially difficult for 17-year-old Jazmine Jewell. She had to move from
California to Virginia for her senior year. – This graduation isn’t gonna
be super important to me, ’cause I’m happy to get my
diploma, I’m finally done, but I’m not graduating with my friends. – [Kavitha] Both Jazmine’s
parents served in the Navy, and she’s moved seven times already. But she says it’s also taught
her important life lessons. – Military kids are more
appreciative of the things that they have and the
friends that they make. Every moment counts. You take a lot of things to heart. (“Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1”) – [Kavitha] And despite the challenges of being a military child, after graduation, Jazmine joined the Navy, and she is looking forward
to traveling the world. – [Announcer] Jazmine Kaitlyn Jewell. – I want to be able to
experience the thing that my mom got to experience. She has told me so many
different adventures that she’s gotten to go on, all the beautiful different
cultures she’s gotten to see. And that’s what I really want to do. – [Kavitha] For the PBS
NewsHour and Education Week, I’m Kavitha Cardoza in
Virginia Beach, Virginia. (gentle music)

About James Carlton

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1 thought on “The Challenges Military Children Face in Public Schools

  1. I am active duty Air Force and I appreciate you guys sharing videos like this! The lifestyle can be hard on the whole family and that is why we actually started our kids channel!

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