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Kids of service members serve, too

As we acknowledge and honor Americans serving in the military on Armed Forces Day on Saturday, we also believe it’s right to recognize the sacrifices a family makes when a parent or guardian heeds the call to serve our country. While some sacrifices are evident, the effect on others — such as interrupting a child’s education — are less apparent but equally impactful.

Military and community leaders have reminded us that there are few better ways to honor American service members than by embracing and supporting their families. Unfortunately, for children of military-connected families, the sometimes-nomadic quality of military life can mean transfers among schools with varying levels of quality and rigor. That inconsistent education is a critical disservice, particularly because access to rigorous, high-quality education at the elementary and secondary levels is a leading indicator of a child’s postsecondary success, which helps determine professional opportunities and personal prosperity. Nearly 2 million children of our nation’s military service members will attend six to nine school systems during their K-12 careers. We believe ensuring consistent, high-quality experiences is a duty our country owes them.

The impact of moving between schools of varying levels of quality and rigor is not limited to the students. Military officials, including Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, say the quality of education is a major factor in a service member’s decision to accept transfers and continue military service. Those are decisions that influence military readiness and national security.

Citing the National Math and Science Initiative’s College Readiness Program, Wilson, in lockstep with Army Secretary Mark Esper and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, said that one of the most critical ways to support military families is to ensure students have access to a consistent, high-quality classroom experience.

NMSI, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense, expanded its College Readiness Program in 2010 to provide military-connected students from coast to coast with the well-trained teachers, challenging Advanced Placement coursework and strong foundation in STEM subjects that will prepare them for the rigors of college and career, whether military or civilian. The AP framework’s uniformity across the country, combined with NMSI’s proven teacher, school and student supports, ensures high academic standards and continuity for students whenever and wherever their families are transferred.

Since 2010, NMSI’s Military Families Mission has grown from four military-connected schools serving Fort Hood and Fort Campbell to 217 schools across 31 states, serving 93 installations of all four armed services. Nearly a dozen San Antonio-area schools are in the program. After just one year of the program, students in these partner schools show an 85 percent increase in qualifying AP math and science exam scores — 11 times the average growth in U.S. public schools. For African-American and Hispanic students, the increase is more than seven times the national average, and for female students, more than 10 times.
Caring for military children strengthens the core of our country’s defense and paves the way for our economic future. NMSI is unwavering in its commitment to equip military-connected schools and students with consistent, high-quality resources and standards that set them up for future success.

Ret. U.S. Army Col Ed Veiga is director of the Military Families Mission, National Math and Science Initiative.