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Supporting the Mission at Home

Congress designated May as National Military Appreciation Month based on the simple idea that our citizens should have the opportunity to publicly recognize the sacrifices and successes of American service members, past and present. Supporting military families by providing their children with the best possible educational opportunities is an important part of our mission at NMSI. During the month, we’ll be highlighting perspectives of educators, active and retired service members and members of military families on the intersection of military life and STEM education. Today we hear from Marcus Lingenfelter, NMSI’s vice president of state and federal programs and former radio operator for the U.S. Marine Corps.
As a young field radio operator in the Marines in the late 1980s, it didn’t take much specialized knowledge to use my portable, two-way radio set. I know the same cannot be said for my 2015 counterpart, who is likely operating highly sophisticated, satellite-based communications equipment connecting a platoon on patrol with military command and control structures halfway around the world.
Today’s soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines require a higher level of technical understanding than ever before — and not just those working as scientists and engineers. Yet it is an unfortunate reality that many military installations are located in communities with under-performing public schools. Just as in the civilian workforce, intentional action must be taken to ensure that the next generation of Armed Forces is equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. The children of current servicemen and women, reserve members and veterans deserve these same high-caliber educational opportunities, whether they grow up to enlist or go on to pursue non-military careers.
The U.S. Department of Defense employs the most rigorous selection and training processes and the most advanced weapons and equipment for its service members. It should come as no surprise, then, that they have approached their mission to provide the highest quality education to children of service members with the same tenacity and expert execution as their military operations. Beginning about five years ago, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of Defense Education Activity called upon NMSI as their own “special forces” of STEM education to partner with them in accomplishing that mission.
NMSI’s College Readiness Program for Military Families has since been “deployed” to more than 100 military-connected schools near U.S. Armed Forces installations from coast to coast, reaching some 30,000 military-connected students. More importantly, the program has made student success in rigorous Advanced Placement® coursework the norm, not the exception.  After just one year of the program, students in NMSI’s military-connected partner schools show an 82 percent increase in qualifying AP® math and science exam scores — more than 10 times the national average. For African-American and Hispanic students, the increase is 11 times the national average and for female students, six times the national average.
This work would not be possible without the continued commitment of the Department of Defense and a coalition of business and philanthropic partners. But the mission is far from complete. We still have hundreds more military-connected schools and thousands of military child dependents to reach. As a former Marine, a father and an education professional, I believe that those volunteering to serve our country should be afforded the same quality assurance for the schools educating their children as they have for the aircraft they so expertly fly, the naval vessels they command, and the state-of-the-art equipment they operate. Our kids deserve nothing less.
Advanced Placement® and AP® are registered trademarks of the College Board.
Marcus S. Lingenfelter serves as vice president of state and federal programs at the National Math and Science Initiative, where he facilitates the expansion of programs that have served students and teachers across 36 states and D.C. Immediately prior, he served the College Board as director of state government relations championing policies and programs to advance P-20 student success across 12 states.
Marcus previously held senior administrative roles at Widener University and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology and served as President of the Pennsylvania Association of Councils of Trustees. He is Vice Chair of the East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania Council of Trustees and a board member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Foundation. He holds a M.Ed. and completed all doctoral coursework in higher education from The Pennsylvania State University and Harvard Institute for Educational Management.