In the U.S. and around the world, nearly one million military-connected kindergarten - grade 12 students are enrolled in public education. These students move every two to three years because they are dependents of active-duty service members. Although these education transitions offer opportunities for learning, they can also present challenges for educational continuity while also impacting students' social and emotional well-being.
Public school staff can play a vital role in supporting military-connected students and their families. Here are 5 ways to support military-connected students that we've observed through our evaluation studies of DoDEA grant projects.
1. Promote an inclusive school climate. This includes creating a welcoming and supportive environment for all students, regardless of their military affiliation. School staff can do this by:
Learning about military culture and the unique challenges faced by military-connected students
Celebrating military holidays and events
Displaying military symbols and artwork in the school
Providing opportunities for military-connected students to share their experiences with their peers
Fostering a sense of community and belonging for all students
2. Identify and provide resources for military-connected students and their families. School staff can help military-connected students and their families access the resources they need, such as:
Military family support programs
Mental health services
Dedicated webpage with school- and community-based resources for military families
3. Provide goal-focused, evidence-based, short-term group and individual counseling services to address military-connected students' social/emotional needs. Students may experience a range of social-emotional challenges, such as anxiety, depression, and grief. School counselors can provide support to help students cope with these challenges and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
4. Use data-informed approaches to identify academic needs and support remediation efforts for military-connected students experiencing learning loss/gaps due to transitions. Students may experience academic disruptions due to frequent relocations and deployments. School staff can use data to identify students who are struggling academically and provide them with the support they need to succeed.
5. Advocate for school policies that increase awareness, knowledge, support, and success when working with military-connected students. School staff can play a role in advocating for school policies that support students, such as flexible attendance policies and transition planning for students who are deploying or relocating.
By implementing these effective practices, school staff can help military-connected students succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.
Since 2011, Shaffer Evaluation Group has supported school-based initiatives supporting military-connected students and their families. Please contact us to learn how program evaluation can support your military-connected student initiatives.