GET FAMILIAR WITH THE INTERSTATE COMPACT
The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children addresses key educational transition issues encountered by military families including enrollment, placement, attendance, eligibility, and graduation. The Compact can make moves easier by helping to ensure that credits transfer and that students can have a more seamless transition to a new school.
For Michelle Ballard, military spouse and parent of four university graduates, her family’s experiences transitioning their children from state to state were largely positive. While there were challenges, their four children thrived despite frequent military moves that resulted in an average of seven schools each. However, one military reassignment from Texas to the East Coast highlighted an issue that countless other parents have likely faced.
“As our second son transitioned from his Texas high school, he sat and passed with honors all of his core curriculum’s exit exams. An excellent student, athlete, and musician, he braved this particular military transition during the crucial bridge from sophomore to junior years. Our gaining school also had an excellent curriculum, and he plunged headlong into AP classes and his chosen extra-curricular activities, well-placed from great grades he had garnered in Texas.
"In the spring of our son’s junior year, we received notification from his high school that he would need to re-take all of the core curriculum classes from his previous school, despite the fact that he had passed with an “A” average in each of those subjects. Thinking this was surely a mistake, I reviewed all the documentation we had brought from his Texas school; I reached out to the guidance counselors and registrars from BOTH schools to inquire if the exit exam records had been correctly sent and accepted; I made appointments with the administration of his current school to discuss why he was being directed to re-take the exams.
"The explanation we received was this: Our son’s current school could not verify that content across all core curriculum subjects from his previous school matched their standards, even though in most cases he had taken honors classes. Keep in mind that his current school’s exit exams measured mastery on a pass/fail basis, meaning a student need only achieve a grade of 51% to successfully exit a subject.
"As a military parent, I was frustrated. I reiterated my son’s excellent exit exam grades (93 or better on 1-100 scale) across all his previous core curriculum subjects. I pointed to his superior grades in his current classes, highlighting the fact that the prerequisites for most of them had been the basis of his curriculum in Texas. Further, I insisted on knowing why our son was being asked to re-take the Texas exit exams seven months into his junior year, at a time when he was also facing SAT/ACT/AP exams. I was assured that since our son was a “high-performing” student, he would easily manage the retesting.
"To shorten a lengthy story, I’ll simply state that although we appealed this re-testing issue through district channels and on to the state’s Department of Education, we did not win. Our story highlights the challenges that the Interstate Compact has sought to address. Although the Compact existed at that time, it was in its infancy, and many states did not know of it. And if they did, they were uncertain of its tenets.
With his usual tenacity, our son re-tested and duplicated his exit grades from his Texas, a fact which I noted in a final round of correspondence to the state’s DOE officials. Years on, the Interstate Compact has succeeded in facilitating a smoother transition for military children. Early grass roots efforts by concerned military parents have helped to foster changes like these, proving that despite our constant relocation and geographical challenges, we want the same high standards for our military kids that all parents do!”
Michelle’s story is a reminder that the Interstate Compact is a resource that can help ensure a smooth transition to a new state or school. While the compact “levels the playing field” for students, it’s not intended to impact curriculum or local standards of education. To resolve compact-related concerns, families should first work with the school and military school liaison officer — or contact their state commissioner if additional assistance is needed.
Visit www.mic3.net for more information.