U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance on Public School Attendance Policies and Children of Military Families

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U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance on Public School Attendance Policies and Children of Military Families

March 11, 2011

As part of the Obama administration's efforts to support military families, the U.S. Department of Education has issued guidance to superintendents and chief state school officers regarding public school attendance policies and children of military-connected families. The guidance reflects the Secretary of Education's commitment to respond to the unique educational challenges facing the children of military families, especially challenges related to military deployments.

"The men and women who serve in our Nation's Armed Forces place a high value on education and the availability of quality educational opportunities for their children," Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "The U.S. Department of Education is committed to providing children of military families the support and education they need to thrive."

When service members are deployed, military families often ask schools to grant their children excused absences so the family can spend extended time together before the deployment, during mid-tour breaks, and after the military parent returns. Deployment-related absences, however, can cause challenges for schools and school districts because increased absenteeism can reduce educational outcomes. These concerns have made some districts reluctant to accommodate requests for deployment-related absences.

Some districts have developed effective ways of responding to this unique need without adversely affecting academic performance. The Secretary's guidance provides information for school districts seeking examples of successful practices that address the needs of military families, while maintaining high standards and upholding established attendance policies. Examples of best and promising practices and policies are available in Military-Connected Students and Public School Attendance Policies, a publication of the Military Child Education Coalition. In his letter to superintendents and chief state school officers, Secretary Duncan encouraged districts to review this information and consider putting in place a well-designed policy to provide for absences related to a parent's military deployment.

The guidance also called attention to the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children, which helps military families overcome the challenges of school transitions. The Department strongly supports the work of the Interstate Compact in addressing issues facing military children.

Secretary Duncan's guidance is part of nearly 50 commitments by federal agencies responding to the president's directive to establish a coordinated and comprehensive federal approach to supporting military families. The National Security Staff and Domestic Policy Council responded to the Presidential Study Directive-9 by calling on all Cabinet Secretaries and other agency heads to expand and improve their services to military families. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden announced the agencies commitments on January 24, 2011, in a report entitled Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment [PDF, 4MB].