Supporting Academic Success for Military-Connected Students

A young student sits on his mother's lap while working on a homework assignment on a laptop computer. The mother is wearing a military uniform.
A young student sits on his mother's lap while working on a homework assignment on a laptop computer. The mother is wearing a military uniform.
Written by:
Written by: Ben Zumbahlen
April 30, 2024

April holds special significance for military families as communities across the world celebrate the resilience and sacrifices of military-connected students. In support of their families’ military service, these students must navigate unique challenges in their K-12 education, including frequent long-distance relocations.  

Recognizing these unique challenges, the U.S. Department of Defense works in conjunction with state governments and education institutions to ensure that military-connected students receive the support they need to excel academically regardless of where duty calls their families. 

One of the primary initiatives addressing the education needs of military-connected students is the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3). Established as an agreement among U.S. states and territories, MIC3 aims to streamline the transition process for military-connected students moving between schools in different areas. MIC3 addresses various challenges faced by military-connected students, including differences in education requirements, enrollment procedures and graduation criteria across states. By facilitating smoother transfers and providing additional support services, when necessary, the compact ensures that military-connected students have access to a quality education regardless of their geographic location. 

Purple Star Schools 

Purple Star Schools are another crucial support that intentionally and effectively cater to the unique needs of military-connected students through offering programs such as transition support and academic assistance. The Military Child Education Coalition, a nonprofit organization working to address education related challenges for military families, collaborates with schools to promote this designation and provide guidance on supporting military families through programs such as transition support and academic assistance. 

A recent report by Penn State University’s Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness highlighted variations in requirements and metrics across states regarding support for military-connected students. To address this issue, the report states that policymakers could consider implementing common components such as designated staff, transition programs and dedicated webpages for military families.

State Initiatives in 2024 

In 2024, at least seven states have introduced legislative efforts aimed at bolstering support for military-connected students. Delaware's H.B. 310 would broaden its legal framework to include the Space Force, which aligns with the evolving U.S. armed forces landscape. New Hampshire’s H.B. 1382 focuses on creating tailored special education support for military-connected transfer students to acknowledge their transitional needs. 

Other states have introduced legislation that specifically addresses Purple Star Schools. For example, Arizona's H.B. 2246 and Colorado’s H.B. 24-1076 would establish their respective state’s Purple Star School Program to recognize and aid schools in providing transition support to military-connected students and their families. Kentucky's H.B. 469 defines "military-connected student" and "purple star school." This bill would also assign oversight to the Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs for effective implementation. Maryland's S.B. 707 would extend the definition of “military-connected student” to encompass Space Force members and National Guard personnel from other states to ensure inclusivity within Purple Star Schools. Florida's H.B. 1285 proposes revisions to existing provisions that would codify the Purple Star School District Program and introduce specialized transfer degrees for military-connected students. Minnesota’s S.F. 4561/H.F. 4451 would require the state to establish a process for schools to apply for the Purple Star designation by July 1, 2026. 

As April comes to a close, we highlight these state policies that recognize the unique needs of military-connected students and honor the sacrifices they and their families make during their years of service. Through collaborative efforts between all layers of government, states can ensure that military-connected students thrive academically and rise above the challenges they may face along the way. 

Author profile

Ben Zumbahlen

Ben Zumbahlen

State relations associate at Education Commission of the States

Ben supports the State Relations Team by engaging with key state education policymakers and assisting with their policy priorities. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado Denver Business School, is an Army reservist and most recently worked for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies, following experience at the Colorado State Legislature and a college library. Ben also has a passion for music.

About Us

At Education Commission of the States, we believe in the power of learning from experience. Every day, we provide education leaders with unbiased information and opportunities for collaboration. We do this because we know that informed policymakers create better education policy.

Copyright 2024 / Education Commission of the States. All rights reserved.