Point of view

Common Core eases one burden for military families

May 9, 2014 

Growing up in a military family is stressful. We put up with repeated parent deployments to dangerous places. We’re asked to endure frequent moves, to abandon our friends and teachers, and to adapt to new environments.

We can all agree that what children of military families don’t need is extra stress in the classroom. But too often schools in different districts and states have dissimilar curricula, standards and graduation requirements. So when every state in the union has its own standards, military sons and daughters are either bored because they have already mastered the material or forced to play catch-up.

Continuing to move forward with the adoption of the Common Core State Standards will go a long way to reduce education-imposed stress upon children and parents alike in North Carolina.

I have a little experience in this matter. I was raised in an Air Force fighter pilot’s home, married the daughter of a career Marine and raised three children. I and my four siblings each attended three high schools – freshman year in one, sophomore and junior in a second, and senior year in yet a third. It took a lot of work, family organization and humor to get it done, but it was harder than it needed to be.

I attended 10 schools in eight states and countries. After I bounced from school to school throughout middle school and high school, my father was selected to attend the Air War College at Maxwell AFB in Montgomery, Ala., where I would attend my senior year of high school.

Sidney Lanier High School, purportedly the best public school in the state, was distinguished in the world of football. But academics was not the school’s strong suit. The entire school curriculum had been taught in Northern Virginia –where I’d lived previously – as part of the sophomore and junior year coursework. There was nothing new to learn with the exception of Alabama state history, a graduation requirement. In order to complete this graduation requirement, I dutifully attended courses with sophomores. I lost a year of potential academic learning, but on the upside, I learned a lot about football and met my future wife, PJ, a Marine colonel’s daughter.

Stories like mine play out in military families across the country and in North Carolina, which has close to 60,000 school-age children of military personnel. North Carolina is home to several of the largest military installations in the country, and these kids deserve the benefits that will come from common core. On average, military children move six to nine times between kindergarten and their senior year of high school. Our military families, thanks to Common Core State Standards, may for the first time rest assured that their children will receive a quality education no matter where they serve.

The benefits from Common Core State Standards go beyond the impact they will have on military families. Currently in North Carolina, only 45 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in math and only 35 percent in reading. Nationally, close to 75 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are not qualified to join the military because of inadequate levels of education, their physical fitness or their criminal records.

Our service men and women operate complex and high-tech weapons systems and find themselves in intense situations that require not only technical proficiency but also strategic thinking, decisiveness and diplomacy. The status quo is not working to support our national security requirements, and the common core offers an unprecedented opportunity for all children regardless of family income, race or ZIP code. While each state is different and will have different strategies to translate the standards into instruction, the Common Core State Standards establish a set of clear, consistent guidelines for what students should know and be able to do at each grade level in math and English in North Carolina.

At the end of the day, no military children should have to endure inadequate or inconsistent education. As parents, we must be 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.

Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton of Washington state served more than 30 years in the U.S. Army.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service