Partner in PROMISE released its 2021 Military Special Education Survey this month to translate the stories of exceptional military families into actionable data.
Last year’s survey showed families are suffering. But rather than focusing exclusively on problems, Partners in PROMISE is focused on finding evidence-based solutions. Some of the most prominent issues found when analyzing the survey data is frequent moves often cause a lapse in services because a school district is lackadaisical about providing services for only a short period knowing the student will move in a few short years.
“Military kids suffer the most as each school system does just enough to get by as they know they only have those kids for a short period of time,” one parent said in the survey.
Another finding was that with every PCS, exceptional families face difficulties in the continuity of services. Every time a family moves to a new school district, they must attend an IEP meeting to have the school evaluate services needed. Sometimes the services a child was rendered in one school does not translate to the services the next school is willing to provide.
“One of my other children has an IEP and she has teachers that don’t follow it either. It’s like they just think it’s a suggestion. These children move all the time and they receive services at one school and move to another state and come to find out that school won’t provide some of the services because it costs too much for the school to pay,” another parent survey said.
The quotes from last year’s survey are devastating.
Last year our founders were able to collect countless stories of EFMP families who have struggled to access adequate education for their children. This year we are focused on storytelling coupled with data. We want to learn if military service affects military children’s access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) – a right afforded them under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Special education and military service
The military lifestyle creates many challenges with providing consistency in education for a service member’s child. These challenges are exponentially more difficult for military families with children who have special needs.
According to a 2010 study by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, “moves made at any point between kindergarten and third grade similarly had a greater impact for children receiving special education services, children whose first language is not English, and children from low-socioeconomic families … while a single move had no impact, two or more moves were associated with somewhat lower achievement in third grade — and again the effects were stronger for some children, such as those receiving special education services.”
As a result of these struggles, most civilian families who have children with special needs move less than those who do not.
Because military families do not have a choice and are required to move due to military service, their children’s education is at risk. One reason families do not speak up is because of the diversity of special education diagnoses and experiences. Partners in PROMISE hopes to build a patchwork of diverse EFMP stories to tell the full picture of the military family’s special education journey.
“Partners in PROMISE was founded because we knew how powerful telling our personal stories would be. We are a storytelling organization, but we also want to do the right thing and validate the educational challenges that our military families with children with special needs face,” Michelle Norman, founder and Executive Director, said. “And as we grow, the way we tell those stories and problem-solve collaboratively will develop as well.”
The 2021 Military Special Education Survey focuses on more than just telling stories. It is a deep dive into many subject areas from PCSing, to individual school experiences, to how much families have paid out of pocket for supplemental services.
Partners in PROMISE partnered with Blue Star Families, UNC – Chapel Hill, the University of Alabama and other special education experts in designing and drafting the survey.
The survey takes roughly 15-minutes to complete and can be taken anonymously. Those who are comfortable sharing their email addresses will be entered in one of five one-on-one consultation sessions with Partner in PROMISE co-founder and special education attorney, Grace Kim. The survey will be open now until October 9, 2020, and results will be released in early 2021.
Why another special education survey?
Because Partners in PROMISE strives to be a storytelling organization, all services it provides stem from the data collected by their annual survey, as well as their connection to their online EMFP community.
During COVID-19, families expressed frustration with a lack of clarity. As a result, Partners in PROMISE drafted a Special Education Checklist for families to help navigate these uncharted waters. Resource partnerships to help link military families to the curated resources they need. And their EFMP Stories series shares relatable experiences of military families to help make the world of special education more accessible.
In addition to providing direct resources to families, Partners in PROMISE is focused on educating military and political leaders. Recently, Norman partnered with Navy and military leadership in the development of the newly-released Navy EFMP app and an upcoming special education attorney pilot program will present initial survey findings to the Military Family Caucus Summit on October 9th.
About Partners in PROMISE
Partners in PROMISE was founded in January 2020 by four mothers to Protect the Rights Of Military children In Special Education (PROMISE). Focusing on a strategy of educating and advocacy, Partners in PROMISE is the link between special needs families, established military service organizations, the Department of Defense, and legislators, working towards collaborative solutions to complex problems.