08-18-2014 11:18 AM
This fall, my daughter Madison will spend her senior year of high school in a different city and state than where she spent her junior year. She will have a new campus to figure out, new teachers to learn from, and new friends to make in a hurry. She’s not complaining about it – in fact, it’s "ops normal" for her as an Air Force brat. This will be her third high school in as many years, and her seventh school overall.
Madison’s high school experience may be a little extreme even for the military, but all active-duty families deal with the challenges of new schools when they go through a permanent change of station. First, there’s the disruption of uprooting the kids from their routine and packing them off to an unfamiliar place. Then there’s the often difficult task of trying to keep them focused on their academics amid the chaos of the move.
There’s also a logistics component of enrolling in a new school – getting registered, selecting classes, filling out health forms, getting required immunizations, arranging transcripts, making sure credits are transferred, meeting with teachers and more.
As trying as they are, school transitions don’t have to frustrate parents or hurt their children in the classroom. Parents can be their student’s best advocates if equipped with the right information and resources.
A good place to start is by knowing the basics of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.This is an agreement among nearly all of the U.S. states (see Figure 1) to equalize the treatment of military children transferring between schools. It creates a consistent policy for class placement, special education services, graduation requirements and other issues for all school districts in the participating states. Contact the School Liaison Officer at your installation to learn more about how the compact can help you with your PCS transition.
Figure 1: Nearly all U.S. states take part in the education compact for military children*
*Effective in Oregon Jan. 1, 2015, New Hampshire adopted the compact on Aug. 4, 2014. New York adopted the compact Aug. 18, 2014
The Military Child Education Coalition is another good source of information and support. MCEC offers parent-to-parent programs so you can learn from those who have been in your shoes, as well as student-to-student programs to help your children get through the rough spots of their transition. It also has a number of publications available and can make referrals for installation services and resources.
SchoolQuest is an important initiative of MCEC. Its rich website offers a wide range of valuable information, most notably a searchable database for comparing and selecting schools near military installations. SchoolQuest also provides help for students transitioning to college, including access to resources to pick the right college and to pursue military in-state tuition and waivers.
The Military Teens Toolkit from the National Military Family Association and Military Youth on the Move offer solid advice and strategies to help you and your children with the PCS transition. If the move is taking a toll on their schoolwork, a free professional tutor from Tutor.com can help get them back on track.
Taking care of the new school situation can be one of the most stressful aspects to a PCS. A relatively seamless transition can be achieved with a little planning and by reaching out to the many resources -- including those from USAA -- available to you.
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