Thousands of children in military families around the country have completed the school year only to pack up their belongings and head with their parents to a new region and ready for the new school year that begins in only a few weeks. Many of those kids will be putting down stakes, at least for a time, in New York state.
New York has a large concentration of active duty military, with about 20,302 active duty personnel stationed in the state, according to the military’s more recent demographic data. New York also plays host to 26,211 many military dependents, many of whom are school-age children. Most of them — some 15,136 military personnel and 18,612 of their dependents — are stationed in the Fort Drum region.
For military families with school-age children, orders to move to another assignment often ignite a rash of concerns about whether public schools serving the next installation will provide a high-quality education and can effectively transition these outsiders into an entirely new academic setting. U.S. service members who are moving to a military facility in New York have two powerful resources to help them navigate the shoals of transitioning to schools in the state.
One resource provides a macro picture of how select states are addressing education quality issues in their public schools while the other provides parents with insights on what specific types of programs work best for military-connected students as they transition into a new school district. Taken together, the two resources can help quickly educate parents moving into the Empire State.
The first resource is an independent analysis called Promise to Practice that assesses how states are addressing underperforming schools; visit http://wdt.me/TKQen4. Given that most military-connected students attend public schools, this guide is useful for rapidly getting service members up to speed on how serious any given state is about fixing schools that might be ailing.
For example, a parent moving to one of the several military installations in New York learns that the state received high marks — a “strong” rating in five of eight categories that were assessed. Overall, the report praised New York for its high-quality school improvement framework and for investing considerable resources into creating documents to help parents and community members understand the changes under the Every Student Succeeds Act. This is the federal law that governs the K–12 public education policy and that has specific provisions for military kids.
That’s all very helpful information for a family plotting a child’s education for the next couple of years in New York.
The other guide is by the Lexington Institute in conjunction with the Collaborative for Student Success titled “Getting School Districts Ready for the Military Student Identifier”; visit http://wdt.me/MavJko. It identifies the types of programs that have a proven track record of helping address the needs of military-connected kids. As parents assess local schools, they should factor in the findings and press districts to adopt these practices with military students in mind.
One of the best practices cited in the report — that schools should have an efficient intake and identification system for identifying military children — seems obvious but can be a major challenge. It is essential that schools get this right and that parents identify their child as military connected. The key to nurturing the bond between student and classroom is to identify the military kids early in the school year so that educators can provide personalized support, easing their transitions academically.
As a teacher of military children, my own best practice is a variation on this theme of identification. I work to ensure that every student in the class knows everyone else’s name. It seems like a small thing, but it has outsized impact.
As Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” It is perhaps even more so for young minds.
When they hear their name used by a peer, they instantly feel they belong. They relax. They gain confidence. All of which provides the strong foundation for academic success.
Relocating to New York doesn’t need to be fraught for military parents if they make use of essential resources and work with educators to ease the anxiety of transitions.
Kiera Tyler is a middle school teacher of military children with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity. She also is a U.S. Army spouse and a member of the national advocacy group Military Families for High Standards.