How can schools improve educational opportunities for military children?

Posted by Ronald | June 7, 2013  |  No Comment

Approximately 1.25 million military children in the U.S. are school age and nearly 80 percent of them attend public schools throughout the nation. Five hundred thousand military children move six to nine times during their K-12 years, according to the Military Child Education Coalition. Some have difficulties transitioning socially and academically due to constant deployments of one or both of their parents. So the critical questions to be asked are: How can schools improve educational opportunities for military children? What is the Department of Defense Educational Activity (DoDEA)? How does Fort Huachuca Schools (FHS) participate in the DoDEA grant program? What are some of the successes at FHS?

While the majority of military families reside on or near a military installation in the U.S. and some of them are stationed in overseas locations, the Department of Defense Educational Activity offers a grant program to Local Educational Agencies with military children. The program is designed to (1) promote student achievement in the core curricular areas; (2) ease the challenges that military students face due to transitions and deployments; (3) support the unique social and emotional needs of military students; (4) promote distance learning opportunities; (5) improve educator professional development; (6) enhance and integrate technology and (6) encourage parental involvement. DoDEA has awarded nearly $200 million in grants to over 180 military-connected school districts since 2008.

One school district that is a participant of the DoDEA grant program is Fort Huachuca Schools (FHS). FHS is led by superintendent Dr. Ronda Frueauff. She has been a superintendent for 19 years in three different school systems in Arizona and Ohio, and currently, superintendent at FHS for the past eight years. According to Frueauff, FHS is a K-8 Arizona public school system located on the Fort Huachuca Military Post which is a military intelligence and communication training center. The system is comprised of three schools that were built in the past eight years with a student enrollment of 1100 who predominantly reside on the army post. On the average, FHS has an attrition rate of 60 percent due to the deployment and duty reassignments of military dependents throughout the school year. Soldiers are assigned to Fort Huachuca a minimum of six months to three years depending upon the specialty of the soldiers.

FHS is in its second year of the three-year grant program funded by the DoDEA. The district’s program focuses on 21st Century Skills, projects-based and inquiry learning with an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The program spans all schools K-8. The intent is to promote students with a comprehensive college and career ready education that will allow them to be successful in any high school program, says Frueauff.

Additionally, Frueauff discusses the type of curriculum and technology integration used at FHS. She says that the school district incorporates the Technology Integration Matrix (AZ K-12 Center) and the STEM Quality Framework (Washington STEM and Dayton Regional STEM Center) to guide the integration process for the projects-based, technology-enhanced instructional programs at each school. Teachers and students at each school site are supported by a technology integration specialist who provides quality professional development and coaching for all staff members. Teachers are also evaluated utilizing the Stronge Evaluation Model developed by James H. Stronge from Virginia.

In addition to the typical sports, choral music and band programs, FHS sponsors extracurricular programs such as Future Cities, Lego League, computer programming, Technology Experts, Step It Up Club, Magellan Running Club, Drama Club, virtual 3-D modeling, Knowledge Bowl, Flute Club and Youth Engineering and Science Competitions. With all of the academic and support programs at FHS and a very active Parent Teacher Organization at each of its schools, 96 percent of the students are prepared for the next grade level. Students score from 70 percent proficient to 95 percent proficient on Arizona state assessments in Reading, Writing, Mathematics and Science, says Frueauff.

We sincerely thank superintendent Dr. Ronda Frueauff for sharing invaluable information about the educational and extracurricular programs offered at FHS, so other schools with military students can learn and adopt these best practices.

Dr. Ronald Holmes is the author of three books, “Education Questions to be Answered,” “Current Issues and Answers in Education” and “How to Eradicate Hazing.” He is publisher of “The Holmes Education Post,” an education focused Internet newspaper. Holmes is the national superintendent of education for the National Save the Family Now Movement, Inc., a former teacher, school administrator and district superintendent. He can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Comment