Touching Base--Volume 5 Issue 2

June 2012 — Volume 5 Issue 2

“… when it comes to all of you, when it comes to our military, our veterans, your families, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden have your back. They are working tirelessly to make sure that our military families are treated with the honor and respect and support that they deserve. And I could not be prouder of all the efforts that they have been making on their behalf.”
– President Barack Obama at Fort Stewart Army Base, Hinesville, Ga., April 27, 2012

Military Mothers Honored at Joining Forces Event

First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, hosted an afternoon tea at the White House on Thursday, May 10, 2012, to honor military mothers and wives for being "outstanding role models" for their children, communities and country. The tea celebrated both Military Spouse Appreciation Day and Mother's Day. The first lady began her speech by thanking the members of the armed forces present for their service. She also shared with military mothers and wives how, on her long days, she thinks of the women in the military and keeps pressing on. Sgt. Major Jennifer Wicks of the Active Guard Reserve Transportation Corps and Transportation School said of the meeting, "[The first lady] told us our children's behavior was a reflection of our strength and the good decisions we've made raising them. That meant a lot to us all." Mrs. Obama then thanked grandmothers for "filling in whenever needed."

Following the tea, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden participated in a community service activity at the U.S. Naval Observatory, on the grounds of which is located the vice president's residence. They were joined by congressional spouses in assembling hundreds of care packages for mothers and wives at the request of deployed troops. Both events were a part of the Joining Forces initiative, launched last year, for which Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden work to give back to America's military families.

Military Children Share Their Experiences With Secretary Arne Duncan

On April 16, Secretary Arne Duncan held a Student Voices Discussion with 21 high school students in the D.C. area whose parents are service members. With the secretary were Patty Shinseki, wife of U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, and Marilee Fitzgerald, director of the Department of Defense Education Activity. Also in attendance from the Department of Education were Karen Gross, senior policy advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary (OUS), and Stefan Huh, director of the Charter Schools Program.

The students shared their educational experiences and challenges as military family members. These included frequent relocations from the U.S. to overseas, the effects of deployments on families, the problems in transferring course credits and getting school personnel to meet the needs of military-connected children, of which there are 1.2 million. One student shared that, while she had all the credits she needed to graduate as a senior, she was considered only a junior because she hadn't taken a specific course. She had taken a similar course at her prior school but the district of her new school would not accept it. Incidents like this occur too frequently to military children, who move from state to state and from other countries back to the U.S. Please read more about the event on the blog,

Supporting the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children

In celebration of the Month of the Military Child in April, Secretary Duncan sent a Dear Colleague letter to superintendents of local education agencies' (LEA), members of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and 18,000 school superintendents. The Dear Colleague letter provided information about the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children and encouraged the letter's recipients to fully implement the compact. To see the full text of the letter, visit:

Military Members and Educators Share Concerns With Department's Senior Policy Advisor

Karen Gross, senior policy advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary at the Department of Education, met with students, faculty and staff at Dover High School in Dover, N.H., on May 8. Those present included President Mark Huddleston of the University of New Hampshire, Base Commander Cpt. Bryant Fuller from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, senior administrators, and military personnel and their spouses. During the meeting, participants discussed concerns of military families, two of which were the affordability of college for all students and improving educational experiences for vulnerable students in the pre-K – 16 pipeline. In response to those concerns, Gross shared that the federal government had programs in place, such as the federal loan repayment options, and tools available online that assist students in selecting quality, affordable education. She also discussed the proposed Race to the Top and First in the World initiatives for higher education. In answer to questions about improving educational experiences, Gross spoke of efforts that are already in place. To learn more about the federal loan repayment options, Race to the Top and First in the World initiatives for higher education, and other resources for military children, visit,

Charter Schools Program Director Advises on Starting Charters on Military Bases

On June 20, Stefan Huh, director of the Department's Charter Schools Program, was a panelist for the session "Starting a Charter School on a Military Base"at the 2012 National Charter Schools Conference. Huh spoke of the unique challenges charter operators and others involved in startups on military bases face, and the need for new tools and opportunities to share lessons learned for helping expand charters. Panel members discussed the growing body of knowledge about the successful development and processes of charters, existing tools and resources, concepts for professional networking, new charter projects, the challenges for this unique population of students and the hurdles startups face For more information about the conference, visit

Education Department Staff Learn About Readiness and Resilience at the Warrior Resilience Conference

Department of Education staff attended the Warrior Resilience Conference IV, Restoring Readiness: Individual, Unit, Community and Family, in Washington, D.C., on March 29–30. The conference provided information, resources and shared experiences for building readiness and enhancing resilience within the individual, the military family and the community. For more information and resources, go to

DoDEA Launches Summer Learning Website to Keep Military Families Engaged in Learning

Many education experts refer to students' experience of the summer months as the "summer brain drain" because they typically lack academic focus. To protect your children from it this summer, whether they are kindergarteners or rising seniors, DoDEA has gathered resources to help you keep them engaged and challenged. Visit the site at

DoDEA Hits a Virtual Milestone

The Department of Defense Education Activity Virtual High School granted its first diplomas at a ceremony held in Peterborough, England, on June 8. Three students residing in Greece, Spain and England received their high school diplomas from the DoDEA Virtual High School (DVHS) at a joint commencement ceremony with the students of DoDEA's Alconbury High School. "We're very proud and excited for our graduating seniors," said Terri Marshall, principal of the DVHS. "These students are a part of a burgeoning 21st century learning community where geographical location is no longer an impediment to attaining an accredited high school diploma."

Eligibility and graduation requirements at the DVHS are the same as those for any DoDEA school.

Officially established in 2010 as a fully accredited supplemental program, DVHS became a comprehensive diploma-granting institution in school year 2011–12, delivering more than 50 courses to meet DoDEA's regular and advanced diploma options. Operating from three Virtual Hubs in Korea, Germany and the U.S., the school allows for synchronous instruction as well as asynchronous learning. All instruction is provided by DoDEA teachers.

"The Virtual High School increases education options for DoDEA-eligible students. Through the DVHS, these students were able to earn a high school diploma that has prepared them to enter the world of work, continuing education and community service,"Marshall said.

DoDEA Schools to Adopt Common Core State Standards

DoDEA is adopting the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) into its curriculum, instruction and assessment programs. The CCSS initiative began more than two years ago as a collaboration between state governors and education leaders to introduce consistency in education systems across the nation. This initiative has garnered the support of 46 states, two territories and the District of Columbia to date. All participants in the CCSS initiative are working together to implement high-quality standards in English language arts, mathematics and science for kindergarten through 12th grade. These curriculum standards are research based, rigorous and relevant to the real world, and reflect the knowledge and skills America's students need for success in college and careers.

To read more about DoDEA implementing the CCSS, visit the DoDEA website at

Listen and Learn: Military Parents and School Liaison Officers Speak Out

On April 15, military parents and school liaison officers accompanied their children to the U. S. Department of Education (ED). While the students were talking with Secretary Duncan, the parents and liaisons met with other ED officials. Over 40 adults representing all branches of the military discussed their concerns and needs, and gave suggestions and solutions that would assist the parents.

Below are a few of the shared concerns of the parents and school liaison officers.

  • Need for assistance with transition;
  • Need for a top-down approach for states to understand and work with military families who move from state to state;
  • Need for schools to communicate with parents who don't have a permanent home address; and
  • Need to standardize the curriculum or at least accept similar core areas of courses.

Parents also spoke of special needs, deployment, understanding rank, educating school faculty on the military and encouraging schools to value military families.

The concerns and needs elicited a discussion of suggestions and solutions to some of the problems, such as the need to

  • Provide resources or a kit for families in transition;
  • Provide families with webinars and newsletters to keep them up to date with transitions and assistance;
  • Utilize guidance counselors to help children acclimate to new surroundings;
  • Acknowledge superintendents, teachers and principals who are military friendly
  • Recognize military-friendly schools; and
  • Support military parents who begin afterschool programs for children in low-income areas.

Military–Connected Students Visit White House for Movie Screening

On April 20, four military-connected students from the D.C. area traveled to the White House to view the movie "Bully,"a recently released documentary on the subject of school bullying. It focuses on five families who experienced bullying. Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed the audience. At the reception that followed in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, the students had the opportunity to engage with other attendees as well as with the families and students featured in the film.

An Updated Resource Is Now Available for Children With Special Needs

The updated Education Directory for Children with Special Needs is now available. It provides information families can use to help them make informed decisions based on services available for their children when relocating. It consists of two components.

  1. The NEW Early Intervention Directory focusing on early intervention services for children birth–3 years; and
  2. The EXPANDED School Age Directory focusing on special education services for children with special needs, ages 3–21.

The 15 states with the highest number of assigned military personnel are included in the directory: Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia

Both directories provide practical suggestions, information and resources to help families in all states who have special-needs children with their transition to any new domestic location.

The Early Intervention Directory includes

  • A summary of national- and state-level early intervention (EI) trends;
  • Descriptions of each state's EI system and related resources;
  • Early intervention (EI) service provider profiles and contact information;
  • Tools for helping families and their children make smooth transitions to new EI providers; and
  • Links to national resource agencies.

The School-Age Directory includes

  • A summary of national- and state-level trends for special education for children identified with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), Emotional/Behavior Disorders (E/BD) and Intellectual Disabilities (ID);
  • Tools for helping families and their children make transitions to new school districts;
  • Descriptions of each state's special education system and related resources;
  • School district profiles and contact information about school districts that service domestic military installations; and
  • Links to national resource agencies.

You may link to the directory at The directory is also posted on MilitaryHomefront under TROOPS&FAMILIES, SPECIAL NEEDS/EFMP,, and STATESIDE DIRECTORY, MilitaryHOMEFRONT is the Department of Defense website for official Military Community and Family Policy (MC&FP) program information, policy and guidance designed to help troops and their families, leaders, and service providers. For questions about the publication, please contact Lorie Sebestyen, MC&FP, Office of Special Needs, at

Contacts: Massie Ritsch, deputy assistant secretary for external affairs and outreach; Charles Boyer, special advisor for military families; Cynthia Hearn Dorfman, advisor; Carrie Jasper, writer and editor; and Gary Jones, Nick Mammarella, Constance Gillette and Kathleen Facon, contributors.
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Note: This document contains information about and from public and private entities and organizations for the reader's information. Inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education of any entity or organization or the products or services offered or views expressed. This publication also contains hyperlinks and URLs created and maintained by outside organizations. They are provided for the reader's convenience; however, the Department is not responsible for the accuracy of this information.

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Last Modified: 06/26/2012