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Schools strive to support the unique needs of military children

Schools strive to support the unique needs of military children


JUDY WOODRUFF: There are more than one million
children whose parents are on active military duty in the U.S., most of whom attend public
schools. They average six to nine moves before the
end of high school. It’s also common to have a parent gone for
long periods of time. Some schools don’t know who these children
are or how to support them, but that is starting to change. Kavitha Cardoza with our partner Education
Week has our weekly segment Making the Grade. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Children from Shelton Park
Elementary School have been working with a nearby military installation on an oyster
restoration project. Many are military children. They have spent months measuring and graphing
their results. Base Commander Joey Frantzen says these educational
partnerships are a win-win. Oysters help filter the water his troops train
in and: CAPT. JOEY FRANTZEN, Joint Expeditionary Base Little
Creek-Fort Story: The kids get the opportunity to learn about oysters, and it really helps
the base. More important, he says, these interactions
help school staff understand some of the challenges military children face. CAPT. JOEY FRANTZEN: At one point, my boys had been
in five different schools in like a two-and-a-half year period. And so having that community and a community
and a school system that understands that dynamic really allows those children to be
able to come in, so that they aren’t lost. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Frantzen says knowing their
kids are supported helps service members concentrate on their jobs and stay in the military. But because, nationally, less than 1 percent
of the U.S. population serves, these children’s challenges often go unnoticed. Teacher Cynthia Dufour says her military students
bring different perspectives to class discussions. CYNTHIA DUFOUR, Teacher: They just are so
used to going new places, so the curiosity is kind of ingrained in them. KAVITHA CARDOZA: But for these children who
are just 10, moving doesn’t always feel positive. STUDENT: I started in Italy, and then I moved
to New York, and then I moved to Virginia. STUDENT: I always make friends, and then I
have to leave. STUDENT: Military children, they move and
move and move, and that doesn’t really make me happy at all. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Frequent transitions can
also mean an inconsistent and uneven education. Eileen Huck with the National Military Family
Association says that’s because public schools vary so much. Some have many military children. EILEEN HUCK, National Military Family Association:
They set up welcome centers for families. Garrison commanders are members of the school
board. But we also have school districts that have
just a few military-connected kids, and it can be more difficult for teachers and school
personnel in those situations to recognize the needs of those kids. KAVITHA CARDOZA: A federal report found there
are no national public data on military dependent students’ academic progress, attendance, or
long-term outcomes, such as college attendance or workplace readiness. Advocates hope having a military identifier
on enrollment forms will help track how well public schools are meeting these students’
needs. AARON SPENCE, Superintendent, Virginia Beach
City Public School District: We’re one of the largest military-connected school divisions
in the country. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Aaron Spence is superintendent
of the Virginia Beach City Public School District. Almost a third of the approximately 70,000
students here are military children. Educating them can be challenging. AARON SPENCE: Figuring out their transcripts,
what are the classes that they may have taken elsewhere that we don’t offer here. And we have a different curriculum in Virginia
than much of the country. And so students might come in, and their parents
will want to know, well, if my child is in third-grade math, are they learning the same
thing that they were learning when they were in third-grade math in California? KAVITHA CARDOZA: Amanda Yoder is a school
counselor and a Navy combat veteran. She’s hired by the district specifically to
support military students. Yoder says it’s tough always being the new
kid. AMANDA YODER, School Counselor: So the biggest
thing that we hear is, who am I going to eat lunch with? They’re worried about making friends. Is the sports team already full when they
arrive? It’s really important that we get those who
haven’t serviced and don’t have a connection involved and trained to understand terms and
emotions. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Virginia Beach schools have
several programs to celebrate these children, art displays, military partnerships, outings
to bases, and a day when everyone wears purple. TARA BREWER, Principal, Shelton Park Elementary
School: It’s their life. It’s what they experience. So we want to recognize that. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Principal Tara Brewer loves
the diversity and experiences her military students bring. But, as a school administrator, it also means
frequent testing and re-teaching lessons, because students arrive in the middle of the
year. Other times, it means getting creative. For example, one of her students was taking
standardized tests when her father was deployed in the Middle East. TARA BREWER: So, every morning, we have either
set up a situation where he can Skype her, wish her luck on testing, or like, when she
gets here, the teacher will text him, and he will call. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Another challenge is having
parents deploy, often to war zones. That can lead to children getting upset or
acting out in school. Some schools in Virginia Beach have after-school
clubs where civilian children can support their classmates. STUDENT: My friend in the military moved away,
and his dad was deployed, so, sometimes, he would cry. STUDENT: This is a with you all the way kit
and this is dealing with deployment. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Research shows, when schools
offer an understanding environment, it can have a protective effect. WOMAN: You need to have on a collared shirt
with either a tie or bow tie. KAVITHA CARDOZA: This year was especially
difficult for 17-year-old Jazmine Jewell. She had to move from California to Virginia
for her senior year. JAZMINE JEWELL, Student: This graduation isn’t
going to be super important to me, because I’m happy to get my diploma, I’m finally done,
but I’m not graduating with my friends. KAVITHA CARDOZA: Both Jazmine’s parents served
in the Navy, and she’s moved seven times already. But she says it’s also taught her important
life lessons. JAZMINE JEWELL: Military kids are more appreciative
of the things that they have and the friends that they make. Every moment counts. You take a lot of things to heart. KAVITHA CARDOZA: And despite the challenges
of being a military child, after graduation, Jazmine joined the Navy, and she is looking
forward to traveling the world. MAN: Jazmine Kaitlyn Jewell. JAZMINE JEWELL: I want to be able to experience
all the thing that my mom got to experience. She has told me so many different adventures
that she’s gotten to go on, all the beautiful different cultures she gotten to see. And that’s what I really want to do. KAVITHA CARDOZA: For the “PBS NewsHour” and
Education Week, I’m Kavitha Cardoza in Virginia Beach, Virginia.


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