My military kid is still struggling in school: Now what?
You moved last year, last month, last week. As directed, you handed over those official and/or unofficial school transcripts, letters from past teachers, and test results. You met the teacher, the principal, and a few other parents. You’ve tried to enroll your child in enough sports and extracurricular clubs to help build new friendships.
But something is still not right.
So much can go wrong when transferring schools, even if you check all the right boxes. But what can you do, as a parent, to help remedy some of these situations? A whole lot as it turns out!
First, get familiar with the laws…and there are a few.
The Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission, applies to all students of active-duty or activated Reserve/Guard families. It also applies for one year only to children of medically retired service members, and children of service members who were killed in action, or are deceased as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty.
This is most helpful in terms of placement in the correct education categories and classes. For states that have adopted this compact, public schools are required to accept official AND unofficial records, test scores, and placements when the student arrives. Schools should operate under “trust but verify.” Students arriving in public schools in member states (which is all 50 states), even with unofficial records, should be placed in courses and programs equivalent to their previous placement. In short, if your child was in the gifted program at Camp Lejeune, she should still be enrolled in the gifted program in Camp Pendleton. Your child might be retested by the new school, and placed differently based on those results, but initially, she should be kept at the same level as her last school.
If they try to fight you on this, be sure to direct them to the interactive map that shows all 50 US states as members of the Interstate Compact. Then direct them to the guiding documents that outline how schools should operate upon receiving new military dependent children.
For students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or other special education needs, receiving schools (public schools including DoDEA) must comply with the current, legal IEP until such time as testing can be conducted to create a new IEP. The important thing to note is that this helps to provide comparable, not identical, services. So if your child has PT services provided, they will still be provided, but maybe not at the same frequency or duration as they previously were. The new district will conduct updated assessments, and convene a new IEP committee to create your child’s new plan.
Another important tool for families with children who have special education needs is the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). This program is designed to identify and assist families and individuals with medical, emotional and educational needs. Enrollment is compulsory, but there are definitely more than a few families who skirt around this. Honestly, it is in YOUR best interest. Not only will EFMP do the legwork for you on determining which schools are best for your child, but they help with the transfer process. If your child has an IEP, 504 Plan, or any other educational plan, enroll in EFMP yesterday (a.k.a., NOW!) Each base has a local office and representative to walk you through enrollment and assist you with the paperwork.
To go along with this, look into the School Liaison program at your new base. Every branch of service, as well as reserve components, maintain an active School Liaison program. These education professionals are employed to help build connections between the military and schools. They are there to help you transition into and out of schools, as well as to help handle any sticky situations that might pop up.
With the legal stuff taken care of, what do you do when everything else happens? Regression. Failure to adjust. Emotional concerns. These, and many more, can seriously impact a child’s academic and social life. Even one “off” aspect of life can severely affect others. A depressed child might exhibit academic regression or fail to make friends. A child who is struggling academically might lash out with anger or retreat into sadness.
There is help out there.
For families with academically focused concerns, Military OneSource has special education consultants. These are fully licensed, master’s level education professionals ready to help walk your family through the special education system. This service is free and unlimited.
Actually, Military OneSource is a one stop shop for so many things to help military families and children. Through this service, you can arrange for non-medical counseling. This can be an awesome and powerful resource for children who are struggling emotionally with school, moving, anxiety, depression, or just need someone other than a parent to talk to. The help is confidential and free.
Sometimes, even though a child is doing well in school and seems to be adjusting to their new home, they struggle to form connections. Let’s face it, Military Kid Life is like no other life out there. Sometimes our kids just need to connect with other military children. Now, they can. Military Kid Connect is another free web service that allows kids from ages 6 to high school to connect with each other through videos, games, and online (parent-approved) message boards. There are even resources for parents and teachers!
Moving with children, especially school aged children, can be challenging and difficult. Armed with the law and with an arsenal of free resources to help support your family, it can help to ease your burden a little and work to guide your child toward success academically and socially.
The help is out there. Now, go use it.
Have you ever had a child who struggled after a PCS? How did you tackle the problems?
Posted by Marguerite Flanagan, M.Ed, founder of MilKids Education Consulting, a blog focusing on military and special needs children offering practical tips, fun ideas, and advice on decoding the very dense special education laws.