From Magic City Morning Star

Education
Military Schools Exempted from "No Child Left Behind" Requirements
By Ken Anderson
Jan 26, 2004 - 9:53:00 AM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Fifty-eight military schools, operated by the Department of Defense at military bases in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia, are exempted from the requirements of the 2002 federal education act, mandating strict standards for testing and teacher certification, with penalties for schools that fail to meet the goals.

The Department of Defense schools don't fall under "No Child Left Behind" requirements because their funding comes from the DoD rather than the Department of Education.

Doug Kelsey, the deputy director of the DoD's school system, said that the schools are trying to live up to the spirit of the legislation despite the fact that the DoE has no jurisdiction over DoD schools. "We actively comply with the intent of the law," he said.

Kelsey said that DoD schools set high standards for its students and teachers, citing high performance on standardized tests and graduation rates higher than 95%.

Student testing is one the main areas in which military base schools escape new rules imposed by the Bush education law.

Public schools must report test scores for each of five separate ethnic groups — white, African American, Hispanic, Asian and Native American — as well as the test scores of special education students and students with limited English fluency.

The DoD's domestic schools educate only a fraction of the estimated 1.4 million children of military personnel, with more than 70,000 children attending schools on overseas military bases, and others attending schools off of the bases.

Military domestic schools are similar in many ways to urban or suburban public schools. Approximately half of the children of military personnel come from low-income families, and more than half of them are ethnic minorities, according to a November, 2003 enrollment report from the Department of Defense.

Most of the children in the military’s schools eventually will have to transfer to the public school system and face new testing and standards, so the military recognizes that parents and children have to be prepared for that transition.

As most DoD schools do not include all twelve grades, students must transfer to  the local public school system in order to complete their education.

The advantage that the DoD schools offer to the children who attend them is that they have a standardized curriculum that allows a student to transfer in the middle of the year from Germany to Georgia without changing textbooks.

Public schools around the nation are required under NCLB to increase the number of students succeeding on state tests, and all students must pass those tests by 2014.

Schools with a high number of low-income students that do not meet annual testing targets must pay for pupils to transfer to higher-performing schools and must provide tutoring and extra services. Schools also may be taken over by their state department of education if they continue to miss testing targets.

DoD classrooms also tend to be small, often with fewer than a dozen students, which encourages newly enrolled students to participate.

DoD 8th-graders ranked second compared to the 50 states on the 2002 National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests. The military’s 4th-graders ranked fourth among the states on the 2002 NAEP reading exam. African-American and Hispanic students perform better overall in the military’s schools than anywhere else in the nation.

The "No Child Left Behind" law was a centerpiece of President Bush's first year in office. While the Bush Administration and the law's supporters argue that the act forces schools to raise standards for all students, especially underperforming minority groups, there has been bipartisan protest against the law as unnecessary federal intrusion into the classroom.

Problems with NCLB range from difficulties in meeting the standards to fears of ominous intent behind the act. Tom DeWeese, of the American Policy Center, claims that the act was the solidification of the failed policies of Goals 2000, School-to-Work, and the Workforce Development Act, and that all of these policies were are intended, not for the education of children, but for the fulfillment of United Nations Agenda 21.

The law permits states to opt out of the program, the penalty being a forfeiture of federal funding. Six states - Indiana, Ohio, North Dakota, Minnesota, Utah, and Vermont - are considering doing just that. On average, the nation's schools receive only about 8% of their funding from the federal government.

The argument over whether DoD schools should be required to meet NCLB standards may soon be moot, however.

DoD schools are expensive, spending more money per student than the national average. The cost comes to about $365 million per year. The DoD is considering a proposal to close some or all of its K-12 schools. A decision to close schools isn't expected until spring, and no schools will actually be closed before 2005, according to a DoD spokesman. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will make the final decision.



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