Eric Howard and Laren Smith work on the arm of a robot in preparation for a 2010 robotics competition. Officials are reviewing graduation requirements and taking further steps to ease the transition for military kids who must move from school to school. (Karl Weisel / Army)
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As about 87,000 students head back to classes in 194 Defense Department schools around the world, officials are reviewing graduation requirements and taking further steps to ease the transition for military kids who must move from school to school.
The Department of Defense Education Activity is reviewing national trends in graduation requirements to minimize the impact of moving into and out of DoDEA schools, according to spokeswoman Connie Gillette.
Officials are looking at minimum graduation requirements, specific course offerings and the number of credits required in subjects such as English, foreign languages and social studies. They are also reviewing the 2.0 minimum GPA requirement and policies for accepting course credits when students transfer to a DoDEA school from other U.S. schools.
Officials urge parents, students, teachers, administrators and others in the military community to provide input to help shape the review through Sept. 30.
Current DoDEA high school students would be grandfathered when the new graduation requirements take effect next school year. The new requirements would apply starting with the freshman class in the 2013-14 school year.
This year's freshmen must have four high school math courses to graduate, with at least three of the four courses taken in high school.
Officials are reviewing the possibility of an additional requirement for Algebra II as one of those courses, starting with ninth-graders in the 2013-14 school year.
"It's always good that they evaluate standards and curriculum. … They've been working to strengthen all areas," said Candace Wheeler, deputy director of government relations for the National Military Family Association. "And we highly support reaching out to the community they serve. Families should have their voices heard."
Among other changes:
• DoDEA officials have added four high school math courses: algebraic modeling, advanced functions, financial literacy and engineering applications.
Last year, DoDEA pilot-tested four career technical education engineering applications courses, and this year, DoDEA will expand them to nine more schools.
• The school system has adopted the Common Core State Standards into its curriculum, instruction and assessment, joining 46 states, two territories and the District of Columbia.
"This is one of those major events in the history of education which will make a real difference for our military children," said DoDEA Director Marilee Fitzgerald.
The standards, which have been adopted for math, reading and language arts, are descriptions of what children should know and be able to do by grade level and content area.
Science standards are under review now, Fitzgerald said.
"You can imagine the power of having standards that are the same for every state," she said. "That doesn't mean every state has the same textbook and every child is on the same page. It means that when you take Algebra I, the same rigor and content will apply to the study of Algebra I."
DoDEA has long had its own standards. "By adopting these standards, it will be a much easier transition for children when they move from state to state. … It will help neutralize some of the academic disruption that occurs when families move from place to place," she said.
• Students enrolling in this year's Virtual High School Program will see more classes being offered — 60 courses, compared with 50 offered last year.
Among those are four new Advanced Placement courses: AP art history, AP environmental science, AP Spanish and AP world history.
Courses on gaming technology, Web design and Japanese, French and Spanish also have been added.
As of Aug. 29, 650 students were enrolled in Virtual High School for the fall semester, but enrollment is far from complete, Gillette said.
At the end of the 2011-12 school year, enrollments peaked at almost 1,200.