Commentary: Providing Kids the Education They Need

School bus

Folks may have heard a lot about the Common Core State Standards recently, but what’s been missing from the discussion is how important the standards are to our military families.

I’m a third-grade teacher in Florida, and I have seen the importance of the Common Core standards in my classroom. But more personally, I saw the importance in my own family when I became the guardian of my 16-year-old niece Kayla while her mother and father were serving in Afghanistan.

Kayla has moved frequently, like most kids in military families; for years, kids like her have struggled to adjust because each state had its own standards. These kids are either bored because they’ve already learned the material or they’re struggling to catch up with their classmates.

The Common Core State Standards address this problem. They outline consistent expectations for what students everywhere -- from Jacksonville to Colorado Springs to Raleigh -- need to know and be able to do at each grade level in order to be prepared for college and their careers.

These consistent standards came too late for Kayla. When she moved in with me, we worked hard to ensure that she was enrolled in the right classes to meet her ultimate goal: college. Despite the stress of starting a new school and coping with the fact that both of her parents were in harm’s way, she worked hard to obtain and maintain a weighted GPA of 4.3+. I was very proud of her.

But when her mother and father returned from Afghanistan and Kayla returned to Georgia, the differing standards meant she didn’t get credit for the difficult courses she had taken. She was informed that she was a year behind where she thought she was.

Stories like this play out in military families serving across the country. According to the Military Family Association, most military children will move at least twice during their high school years. We owe it to these families to ensure the quality of a child’s education doesn’t suffer because a parent chose to answer the nation’s call.

The Common Core standards ensure that students in every state have the skills that will prepare them for their futures. Military families, for the first time, can rest assured that their children will receive a quality education no matter where they serve.

Kayla will not be able to recover her credits, but I know with hard work she’s still on a path to success, thanks to the values instilled in her by her parents. But no military family should have to go through this.

As a teacher and a parent, I am determined to work toward a better education system for the families that serve our country. We need consistent standards. We need to stand strong behind the Common Core.

-- Joanie Blue was the 2013 Hamilton County (Fla.) Teacher of the Year.

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