Compact helps military children transition into their new school|
by Monica Mendoza
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
4/12/2010 - PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. (AFNS) -- In four years, Cait Horner, a Peterson Air Force Base family member, attended four different schools in two different states and one foreign country. Each time she moved, she was retested for placement in the gifted and talented program. Sometimes she was placed in the gifted program, sometimes she wasn't.
"We didn't know what to expect at each school or with each gifted program," said Lynne Horner, her mother.
It all worked out for Cait, who is now in eighth grade and will be enrolled in honors classes when she enters a Colorado Springs, Colo. high school next fall.
Her moves to different schools in different states, however, would have been easier under the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children, which aims to help military students transition into new schools every time they move.
The compact was developed in 2008 by Department of Defense and the Council of State Government officials. Its goal is to replace the varying policies of each state and school district when it comes to military students including the key issues of enrollment, placement, attendance, eligibility and graduation.
To date, 28 states have adopted it.
The compact was designed for children like Cait. It recognizes the unique situation of military children who, through no fault of their own, move many times during their school years, said Cheryl Serrano, the Fountain-Fort Carson School District superintendent and Colorado commissioner for the compact.
According to Department of Defense Education Activity officials a military family moves three times more often than a non-military family. Each time a child moves into a new school, there are new rules, new tests and new programs.
-- The compact allows parents to present their child's unofficial records to the new school to expedite classroom assignments until official records reach the new school.
-- A child who was enrolled in special programs, like gifted and talent or International Baccalaureate, can automatically be placed in similar programs in the new school.
-- High school students will receive credit for similar course work, exams and graduation requirements at their new school.
-- Children will be given an opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities, regardless of deadlines to tryout or train.
-- Military children can have extra time off to spend with their family, without penalty, when a deployed parent comes home.
"I think it's important that parents know about this, that we are a part of this agreement," said Lisa Ballard, the 21st Space Wing school liaison officer. "Parents may be dealing with issues at the school that I'm not aware of and they don't realize that the compact exists."
The compact does not give favor to military children, Ms. Ballard said. It makes things equal. Under the compact, for example, a child who was in a gifted program in one state is automatically accepted into the gifted program in a new state. If the child does not perform at the level with the rest of the class, then the teacher can request that the child take a placement exam to determine continued eligibility.
"At least the compact will give the child the benefit of the doubt so they don't have to wait, they are not missing out and there is no gap," Ms. Ballard said.
Prior to the compact, Ms. Serrano, who also serves as chair of the compact commission, heard horror stories about military children who were kept out of athletic programs, special academic programs and even graduation because they had missed an enrollment date or had not taken a certain exam.
"It was ridiculous, the things that prevented some kids from going to college and graduating on time," Ms. Serrano said.
In her school district, more than 70 percent of the students enrolled are military family members. She has been working on transition issues for years, she said. And, although the compact was approved in Colorado in 2008, it is still unknown to some school officials and parents.
In April, Ms. Serrano was invited to Fort Carson to meet with school liaison officers and area school district officials. For some school officials, it was the first time they heard about the compact's details, Ms. Serrano said. Across the state, about 18,000 children are military affiliated. In Colorado Springs School District No. 11, where many Peterson AFB children attend schools, there are about 1,525 family members.
"We have got to be better about the way we treat military kids, about the way we treat all kids," Ms. Serrano said.
Beyond the compact, Ms. Serrano hopes area school officials will continue to talk about how they can help military children transition into their new schools and get comfortable in their new setting.
The compact also covers issues of immunizations and children living out of school district when a parent deploys. Find out more about the compact at, http://www.csg.org/index.aspx, click on programs, then policies and then interstate compacts.