Standards are a way of life for the military: Military dress has standards, Physical Training tests, and even entry into the military itself has high literacy and fitness standards. High standards helps the US maintain a strong fighting force. For military children, standards may just provide the strong force in education to help give them a fighting chance, too.
Military children move an average of six to nine times during their academic careers. Moving with such regularity creates inconsistencies in educational achievement standards. A student may study Virginia history one year in middle school and Florida history the next, but completely miss out on US history. Another student may miss the basics of the parts of speech while another may spend years diagramming sentences in schools at multiple duty stations. Though military children have the great benefit of a global education that provides them with a worldly perspective if not a greater understanding of geography, their academic inconsistencies are typically coupled with deep rooted insecurities about their ability to achieve.
Should We Set Military Standards for Our Children?
The Common Core Standards posture themselves to help military children better transition into each school by mitigating these academic inconsistencies. The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) strongly supports the Common Core. In their K-12 Core Curriculum Standards pamphlet, they write that the standards will help shift the education of military children to “…one that will be as close to academically seamless as possible. Students will not be caught off-guard when they move, because CCSS outline the specific skills and knowledge by each grade that students need to have in order to be prepared for college or employment after high school.” Further, not only are these standards designed to create benchmarks across the nation, but also they are designed to raise the standards across the board.
Sounds good, right?
It is good to have high standards. Having high standards alone, however, does not help students achieve them; it simply sets the bar at a height where many students cannot reach it. Despite raising the standards to Common Core level in the state of New York this past year, the state failed miserably in helping children reach the standards. Testing on the standards showed that huge achievement gaps between black and Hispanic students existed. For example, 15-percent of black students and 19-percent of Hispanic students achieved passing scores on the math standards of the Common Core exams; meanwhile, their Asian and white counterparts passed at rates of 61 and 50-percent, respectively.
Military children who have attended DODEA schools have historically not experienced these same achievement gaps. Studies conducted by both Vanderbilt University and the National Association of Educational Progress showed DODEA schools as having the lowest percentage of achievement gaps between white and black students in the nation, and that black and Hispanic students, in particular, consistently outperformed their peers in the public school system. These students were not subjected to a regular battery of test prep, and these schools were given considerable autonomy in their choice of curriculum. Annually, students in DODEA schools achieved higher than national standards; as of 2011, a full 80-percent of 11th grade students meet or exceed reading standards.
One year after seeing such great achievement in their system, DODEA moved to integrate the Common Core. Now, military children are subject to Common Core standards whether they attend DODEA schools or off-base public schools.
As an experienced educator, I strongly support national, testing based standards as a measurable means for monitoring student progress on a large scale (a near impossible task), but I am acutely aware that a national standard testing based system does not work for all students.
I’m not alone in this belief…
- Almost one in ten military children are home-schooled.
- Almost one-quarter of all American families have educated their children in a non-public school environment, according to a recent survey by EdNext, a peer reviewed education research journal .
- As of 2014, just slightly over half of Americans (53-percent) and less than half of all teachers (46-percent) support the Common Core.
While the Common Core sets the bar, the curriculum to help students achieve the standards is still set at the state and local level. The only way to measure whether students are achieving the Common Core standards is through a series of national tests that rate and rank students. As anyone who has ever hired multiple great test takers can affirm, a student’s ability to achieve a high test score does not necessarily translate to an ability to better perform in the workplace or achieve in any other aspect of life. Unfortunately, Common Core fails to include a standard that will accurately measure the worldliness and adaptability of military children against that of their peers. Only time will tell whether these national standards actually serve to help our military children.