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Education of Military Dependent Students: Better Information Needed to Assess Student Performance

GAO-11-231 Published: Mar 01, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 01, 2011.
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Since the early 1990s, Congress has supplemented the Department of Education's (Education) Impact Aid program by providing funds for the Department of Defense's (DOD) Impact Aid program to compensate school districts with a high number of military dependent students. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 required GAO to review the use of these funds. GAO reviewed (1) what is known about the utilization and effectiveness of DOD Impact Aid funds, (2) the challenges faced by school districts in serving military dependent students, and (3) how DOD and Education have collaborated on their assistance. To address these issues, GAO conducted a Web-based survey of all 154 school districts that received DOD Impact Aid in any year from 2001 to 2009, with a response rate of 77 percent. GAO also interviewed officials from DOD and Education and seven school districts in five states, ranging in school district size, location, and percentage of military dependent students. The findings from these visits cannot be projected nationwide, but illustrate valuable perspectives.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Education To better understand the needs of military students and the effectiveness of strategies to assist them, the Secretary of Education, in collaboration with the Secretary of Defense, should determine whether to require school districts to identify military dependent students as a distinct subgroup for reporting on their academic outcomes, such as test scores and high school graduation rates. This should include determining whether the Department of Education needs to obtain any additional legislative authority for this requirement, and seeking it from Congress, if necessary.
Closed – Implemented
In 2011, the Department of Education issued a report titled "Strengthening Our Military Families: Meeting America's Commitment," that proposed improving data collection on military students through the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). The Department proposed requiring states and school districts that receive ESEA Title I, Part A funds to report aggregated data on military students' academic achievement. Subsequently, in 2012, the Department reported that it sent legislative language to the cognizant House and Senate committees on February 17, 2011 to improve the reporting of military students' achievement data.

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Aid for educationEducationEducational facilitiesEducational grantsFederal fundsInteragency relationsMilitary dependentsReporting requirementsSchool districtsStudentsUse of funds