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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