Every Student Succeeds Act: Why Guard/Reserve Kids Should Be Included

Last year, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which included a new subgroup for identification in school data: military-connected children.

Why was this important?

We know school-aged military-connected children move three times more than their civilian counterparts - so much that we lobbied to get an interstate compact just for military children and their educational needs.

What we don't know is how much school they are missing compared to their civilian counterparts or how disruptions and transitions in their lives impact school performance, including access to gifted and talented programs and more.

The data now is tracked for military-connected kids as a population through the Military Student Identifier (MSI).

How do Guard and Reserve kids fit into this picture?

It's assumed mobility, or frequent PCSs, are not an issue for most Guard and Reserve families, so the identifier only tracks children whose parents report they are on active duty orders. This muddies the waters, as Guard and Reserve members might be on active duty intermittently. As a result, data on them is collected sometimes, but not always. There is no way to separate their data from that of children of active component servicemembers.

Why is it important to separate Guard and Reserve component military children?

We know a lot about the challenges of multiple moves on military-connected children, and it is great that we now have a way to track the educational impacts. However, there is growing evidence suggesting parental absence has negative impacts as well.

It is important to understand how a military child's educational experience is affected when a National Guard member is mobilized to deal with a mudslide 250 miles away.

As we say in the advocacy community, “gone is gone.” It makes no difference to that child whether their parent is in the Middle East battling the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or a forest fire in Northern California.

There is a fix for this. States have the ability to implement the MSI on their own; some already have.

Texas added an MSI to the Texas Education Agency's annual data collection in 2013. Review of that data by the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), which has been a leader in advocacy for military-connected children, highlighted opportunities to improve support and minimize disruptions for military-connected children.

MOAA supports efforts to disaggregate data on military children of the National Guard and Reserve, and believes the best way to achieve this is through state legislation. MCEC has great resources on this issue and is working with states and other advocacy organizations to build awareness at the state and local level.

Guard and Reserve families have a role to play here, too, in reaching out to their state legislators and letting them know how service impacts their children and why their children's challenges should be captured in data.