Military children must have higher K-12 education standards

Military children must have higher K-12 education standards

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ensuring that all school-age children receive a consistent and high quality education is a struggle in the civilian world.

But it is doubly so for military families because of the constant moves from base to base and school district to school district.

That is why a group of current and former military spouses is banding together to advocate for high education standards at the local level – no matter the location, no matter the duty station.

Called Military Families for High Standards, the group seeks to build awareness about the damaging impact that insufficient standards has on the families of service members and the military at large.

Military Families for High Standards unapologetically calls for K-12 education standards that are on a par with college- and career-ready standards like the Common Core.

Developed by governors and state education chiefs and voluntarily adopted by 43 states, Common Core State Standards are academic benchmarks that a student must master at each grade level to be on track to graduate high school ready for college or a career.

These high standards are simply academic benchmarks that encourage teachers and school districts to continue to design their own curricula.

The standards were also adopted by the Department of Defense’s Education Activity, which manages K-12 education standards at 171 DoD schools.

The Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission also has endorsed the standards. The compact focuses on reducing the educational and emotional issues encountered when the children of service members transfer from schools in one state to another.

Because some states are seeking to roll back on their promise to deliver high educational standards, it requires constant vigilance at the local level – and a stepped-up commitment by military families – to keep pressure on school officials.

The majority of the 1 million school-age children in military families attend public schools.

U.S. military leaders recognize the importance of ensuring high K-12 education standards for military children.

Gen. Ray Odierno, then the Army chief of staff, said that the performance of schools near a base is a top concern and would be an important consideration in any future installation changes or base realignments.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter went one step further.

In a nod to military families with school-age children, Carter recently unveiled a new policy allowing service members to remain at a particular base or duty station for a longer duration in exchange for extended service.

It’s a direct response to complaints by military parents who are loathe to move if the next duty station has poorly performing schools.

And then, of course, there is the impact on military readiness associated with insufficient education standards and the performance of schools near bases.

It rises to the level of a bona fide readiness issue because of the impact on decisions by service members to take certain postings or remain in the armed forces.

Military Families for High Standards is single-minded in the belief that sacrifices made by service members to the nation shouldn’t include a quality education for their children.

Therefore, we stand ready to defend their children’s right to a quality education at any school, outside any base in the United States.

Education is the kindling of a flame, the ancient Greeks wrote.

We hope you will join us to ensure that it burns brightly for the children of military families.

(Editor’s note: A military spouse for nearly four decades and a K-12 educator, Ham is chairwoman of Military Families for High Standards. A former U.S. Navy officer, Cowen is director of military affairs for the Collaborative for Student Success. Contact them at:

Christi Ham

Jim Cowen