The Military Student Identifier May Be a Game-Changer for Many Helping Military-Connected Children

As we celebrate the Month of the Military Family, I wanted to take a few minutes to look at one of the most interesting developments in recent history regarding military-connected children – the creation of the military student identifier (MSI).

Included as part of 2015’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the MSI promises to give states the ability to help ensure the success of military-connected children in our public schools across the country. This is particularly important since more than 75 percent of military-connected children attend public schools.

As I’ve often mentioned, these students move on average six to nine times between the time they start kindergarten and graduate high school, three times more often than their non-military peers. That movement makes it extremely difficult to know how these children are faring.

The Government Accountability Office, the government’s own watchdog, wrote in 2011, “there are no data available on [military-connected] students that could be used to assess their academic achievement, education outcomes, or determine where funding needs are the greatest. Such reporting requirements exist for certain other groups of students, such as economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.”

In fact, many teachers and administrators are unaware that they have one or more of these students in their classrooms, and therefore are not aware of their needs or how to best serve them.

Through the MSI, administrators will gain new insights on their military-connected learners, including academic progress and proficiency, special and advanced program participation, mobility and dropout rates, and patterns over time across states and districts lines. Other categories of information will likely include where military-connected students go to school, how they perform, whether they graduate and what they do after they graduate high school (college versus work force).

All of this information will result in better knowledge of how these students are performing as a group. And knowing that helps schools, as well as local and state governments, suggest and make changes that will benefit these students, as well as ensure support is going to the areas that need it most.

While some states – like Virginia – have been paying attention to the progress of their military-connected students and simply need to fine tune their process, states that do not currently utilize the Military Student Identifier will need to put theirs in place. How they do that will be critically important to the success of the MSI.

The MSI holds great promise. If states implement it correct and utilize the information it provides, then it will be key to helping us achieve our mission of lessening the burdens on military-connected children. Now we need to ensure the officials in our state departments of education step up to the challenge.

Christi Ham is chairwoman of Military Families for High Standards.

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