During Tuesday night's State of the Union Address, President Obama touched on education issues at several points in his speech. The Schott Foundation for Public Education today released its response to the President's education message:
During President Obama's third State of the Union Address, he rightfully urged the leadership in Congress, and the American people, to use the same collaborative approach to solve our domestic issues that the military uses to address our international threats. We agree with the President that employing these values can help solve many of our domestic challenges-starting with education. In fact, for over a decade the Department of Defense schools have been one of the highest performing and most equitable systems of public education in our nation.
THE MILITARY MODEL
As Michael Winerip recently reported in the New York Times, the k-12 schools run by the Department of Defense are effective because the federal government went beyond inspiration and took steps to ensure that all soldiers, regardless of rank or base location, could send their children to the same well-equipped schools. (Nearly all of the 69 military base schools are in the South. They were opened in the 1950s and '60s because the military was racially integrated and did not want the children of Black soldiers to attend racially segregated schools off base.) The military also ensured that soldiers were not living in extreme poverty and that community supports were in place to meet their families' needs.
As a result, the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data revealed that, once again, schools on the nation's military bases outperformed other public schools in both reading and math for fourth and eighth graders. Furthermore, the achievement gap between black and white students is significantly smaller at military base schools and is decreasing faster than at traditional public schools or charters. We encourage the President to look to this military model and not to leave performance and equity as an inspirational challenge with very little support and federal engagement to help states and cities achieve the goal. The President must be intentional about creating the conditions by which all students, regardless of where they are born, have an opportunity to learn.