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District, School, and Community Stakeholder Perspectives on the Experiences of Military-Connected Students

by Kris Tunac De Pedro, Monica C. Esqueda, Julie A. Cederbaum & Ron Avi Astor - 2014

Background/Context: The children of military service members experience numerous military-related stressors (e.g., deployment of a parent), resulting in negative psychological outcomes. About 90% of military-connected students are educated in civilian public schools. A few recent studies in disciplines outside education research suggest that civilian public schools lack awareness of the needs of military-connected students.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to provide a foundation and context for the development of future research, policy initiatives, and school-based interventions by exploring the perspectives of district, school, and community stakeholders (i.e., school administrators, superintendents, community-based military educators, and education researchers). To this end, this study examined the schooling experiences of military-connected students and their strengths and challenges in civilian public schools and identified school-based strategies that promote emotional, psychological, and academic outcomes among military-connected students.

Participants: The research team targeted participants from diverse professional roles and from different educational contexts serving military-connected students (e.g. school, community, neighborhood, and military contexts). Thirty-one stakeholders who worked closely with military-connected students or military-connected public schools were purposively selected.

Research Design: In this qualitative study, interviews were conducted with participants in the fall of 2010. The interviewer was a former military child and collaborated with the research team to create a semistructured interview protocol. The interviewer asked participants to discuss their perspectives of the unique issues of military-connected students, how military-connected schools have responded to those issues, and their recommendations for future education reform targeting military-connected students.

Findings/Results: The findings revealed the following stakeholder perceptions: (a) military-connected students have unique cultural needs and challenges that necessitate school intervention, (b) some schools utilize homegrown practices to address these needs of military-connected students, (c) stakeholders feel that public schools have responded poorly to the issues and challenges of military-connected students, and (d) stakeholders believe that public schools should be places of stability for military-connected students.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The education stakeholders in this study were well aware of the unique challenges and strengths of military children and homegrown practices developed locally by military-connected schools. They offered recommendations at the school, district, and community levels on how to improve school responsiveness, including a data identification system and continued staff training. Future research should include the perspectives of teachers and students with regard to how military-connected students cope with military life stressors in the classroom. Overall, this study uncovers the issues of a population of students who have a significant presence in over 200 public school districts throughout the United States and provides a foundation for future education reform and research on military-connected students.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 5, 2014, p. 1-32
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17438, Date Accessed: 6/22/2021 2:54:15 AM

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About the Author
  • Kris De Pedro
    Chapman University
    E-mail Author
    KRIS TUNAC DE PEDRO, Ph.D. is assistant professor of educational leadership at Chapman University in Orange, CA. His research interests include school climate, culturally responsive schools, and the schooling experiences of invisible cultural groups. His current research and teaching involves action research, servant leadership, and educational reform for military-connected students.
  • Monica Esqueda
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    MONICA C. ESQUEDA, M.A. is a Ph.D. candidate at the USC Rossier School of Education. Her research interests include emerging student populations, student experiences, and the impact of national-, state-, and local-level policies on student experiences.
  • Julie Cederbaum
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    JULIE A. CEDERBAUM, Ph.D. is assistant professor of social work at the USC School of Social Work. Her research interests include primary and secondary HIV prevention, social work and public health practice with families, and interventions with families and youth. Her work has been within a family systems paradigm and has utilized short-term therapeutic models.
  • Ron Avi Astor
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    RON AVI ASTOR is the Richard M. and Ann L. Thor Professor of Urban Social Development at the School of Social Work and Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. His past work examined the role of the physical, social-organizational, and cultural contexts in schools related to school violence. Most recently, his research has examined supportive school climates in military-connected schools.
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