School and the Military Child

After earning my Master's in Education from The College of William and Mary, I worked as a school counselor in two military heavy areas in Virginia and Maryland.  I was constantly faced with challenging transcripts from all over the world, piecing a puzzle together to try and make sure that a student would be able to graduate on time and with his or her peers.  I also experienced the emotional aspect of transferring between schools and worked with many students as they tried to assimilate into their new community.

While it is awesome that the United States allows each state to make it's own laws in several areas, the fact that we don't have a standard high school curriculum poses a unique challenge to transient families.  Students who work extremely hard and do all the right things in Texas might have a very hard time if they transfer to Virginia in their junior or senior year of high school.  I have worked with awesome students who needed to do night school, summer school, and retake standardized tests from 7th and 8th grade in order to graduate.  It is heartbreaking, and frustrating, and as a counselor there was absolutely nothing I could do except keep the family informed and organized.  And occasionally absorb some obscenities on behalf of the state's department of education.

While there is absolutely nothing I can do or say on this blog to erase the challenges of moving with school aged children, I hope to compile as much information as I can in one place so that you can feel informed and empowered.  So that the decisions you do have the opportunity to make can be done with confidence.

Feel free to email me if you have any resources that you see missing.  This is a community effort.

WHEN YOU MOVE:

Most public schools require a lot of information to register your student.  DO NOT PUT THAT INFORMATION IN BOXES.  We all know that sometimes boxes take weeks to months to arrive at our new duty station.  Unfortunately, schools do not have the license to just ignore their registration requirement.  In short, you can't pull "the military card" and ask for leniency.  Registrars in public schools have their hands tied.

I recommend purchasing or creating an accordion file where you keep all important documents for your child.  These documents include:

Birth Certificate
Social Security Number (you probably won't need the card, but you will need to know the number)
Updated Immunization Record (check your new state's Department of Education website for immunization requirements and exemptions)
School Health Form (also on state DOE websites)
Most recent official transcript
Current grades for all classes if you are leaving mid-school year.  It is also helpful to keep your course catalogue with you.  Many courses are with similar curriculum are called different things (eg: Earth Science and Physical Science) but the descriptions can help to make sure your child is placed properly
All Standardized Test Scores
*  Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Paperwork if applicable
Custody or Divorce Paperwork if applicable

Once you get to your new location you will need to prove that you live at the address that is in the school's district.  Expect to need to bring a utility bill, mortgage, or lease with your name and new address on it.  Thankfully, you should be able to print this off the Internet fairly easily.

This accordion file should be updated regularly - not just when you PCS. 

Your child's official school record will likely be mailed to your new school.  Most schools will not let you hand carry the record.  Your new school will do an official records request (this is both to protect the record but also make sure that you are actually enrolling your student in school which is required by law).  Make sure you have paid all debts to the school (for lost books, library fees, etc) because they will often withhold records to the new school if there is money owed.  If possible, ask for a copy of all records for the most recent 2 years.  This way, when you sit down with the new school you have some information to get your child placed properly and into school as quickly as possible.

GREAT WEBSITES & RESOURCES:

http://www.greatschools.org/A great website for gathering factual information about demographics, curriculum, location, and test scores.  The community reviews give you the real scoop on each school.  Easy to read and understand, great schools can help you research your new area from afar and feel confident that you are choosing housing in an area that will be a good fit for your child.

http://www.schooldigger.com/: Another website for factual information such as test scores, teacher-student ratio, school boundaries, and more.  It has city and school rankings, top 10 lists, and even gives a "most improved" award.  Includes parent/community reviews.

http://www.schoolquest.org/: A site aimed at transient families. Discusses transitions between schools. Also has a database to search schools that includes DoD and overseas locations.

http://www.militarychild.org/: The website of the Military Child Education Coalition, an organization dedicated to helping military children succeed and thrive in school in light of the challenges the military lifestyle can present.   MCEC is full of useful Resources.  A few that are particularly helpful are:

A Military Parent's Guide to School Policies and Transitions

K-12 Core Curriculum Standards - A guide to how graduations state standards are the same - yet different.  Particularly helpful for students transferring state-to-state during high school.

Getting Your Ducklings in a Row - A state by state guide to vaccination requirements.

Hi, I'm Jill!

Hi, I'm Jill!
Extrovert. Mom of two. Wife of a cute Naval Aviator. Lover of wine. When I'm not chasing my two kids around town you will find me writing, taking too many photos, and researching the ten future areas the Navy could potentially (but probably won't) PCS us. We are fish out of water, landlocked at 7,000 feet. For now.

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