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DOD provides continued support for military children

WASHINGTON -- Department of Defense Education Activity officials are keeping on the cutting-edge of sharing resources and training tools with public schools supporting military families, a Washington education official said.

"Our goal is to reach military children who attend public schools," said Kathy Facon, the activity's chief of educational partnership. "We want to make sure that what's good for our students is good for them too."

Aimed at cooperation with public schools, the education activity serves as an ex officio member of the Interstate Compact on Education Opportunity for Military Children Commission.

The compact is an agreement among states to ensure the smooth transition of military children between schools. The compact works to ease issues surrounding records transfer, graduation requirements and course sequencing, among others. So far, 35 states have signed the compact, including South Carolina.

The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children in South Carolina was passed June 11. According to the Compact information paper, the new legislation "allows for the uniform treatment, at the state and local district level, of military children transferring between school districts and states."

The Interstate Compact had been in the works for two years and was initially brought to the table in July 2008.

With programs in place like the Interstate Compact, DODEA officials are working to develop training and marketing materials to help states and school districts implement compact guidelines.

Most recently, officials offered up their latest special education training tools to public schools supporting military children after receiving positive reviews from their own teachers.

The program includes 16 training modules developed in cooperation with top experts in the special-education field, said David Butler, an education data specialist.

The modules cover a broad spectrum of topics including mediation and conflict resolution, classroom behavior management strategies and effective strategies for students with math difficulties, as well as a module on autism spectrum disorders.

"The modules were developed so they could be used on a widespread basis," Ms. Facon said. "Much of the information can be applied to any teachers, not just those in special education."

These key areas of support within the gates represent the DOD's commitment to military children, and in further support outside the base gates, a robust grant program to school districts across the nation is also offered by DODEA. In the past two years, the activity has awarded $96 million in grants to about 80 school districts, Ms. Facon said.

Officials have reached out to districts that have been affected by deployments or are in locations where education options are more limited for military families, she said.

Most of the grants are focused on academics to improve student achievement, but also include resources for additional counseling support, virtual learning opportunities and professional development for the teaching staff.

Ms. Facon also highlighted an online resource called "Students at the Center" that benefits both military families and the schools they attend.

For military parents, the resource offers tips on navigating the public education system, as well as information on report cards, school performance and district achievement levels. For school leaders, it offers information on military families, particularly in regard to education and readiness, and how they can facilitate a safe and stable environment for military students. Military leaders can, for instance, find information on providing outreach to school boards.

"We're very proud of this resource," Ms. Facon said. "We've brought information that was available in many different formats into one location."

For help via the web for students, the Department of Defense is also currently funding an online tutoring program for military children provided by Tutor.com. Eligible service members and their families connect to expert tutors online for help with homework, test preparation and academic skills in all core subjects at no charge.

Since 2001, the Tutor.com network of more than 1,800 professional tutors and career specialists have delivered more than 5 million one-on-one tutoring and career sessions. Now, service members and their families have access to the resources through a Department of Defense funded contract.

For more information on the education activity's training and products, visit www.militaryk12partners.dodea.edu.

(Courtesy of American Forces Press Service)