Can Education Learn From the Military?

Nov 04, 2010

A recent study by the National Association of State Boards of Education found that adopting many of the military's best practices would help improve high school graduation rates and increase postsecondary participation. The report suggests that our nation would benefit from a partnership between education and the military.

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Military Education

Taking Lessons from the Military

In its recent report, Common Ground: Education and the Military Meeting the Needs of Students, the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) points out that there are certain relationships that are widely recognized as being crucial to the health of our public education system. Partner organizations typically include higher education, businesses and the greater community.

But according to NASBE, there's another important resource out there: The military.

Many people shy away from linking public education with the military. It brings up memories of the draft and fears of coerced conscription among impressionable young people. But NASBE argues that there are a range of best practices in military youth programs such as JROTC that could benefit American public school kids.

Key practices highlighted in the report include:

  • Holistic education. Students receive personalized learning plans and assistance with planning their futures, as well as consideration of their nonacademic strengths and goals.
  • Integrated curricula. Education includes lessons relevant to students' lives and desired outcomes, such as pursuing a college degree.
  • Structure. Nobody's better at creating a structured environment than the military. NASBE argues that providing a structured, safe environment for students will help them - and their teachers - focus on learning.

These practices would give students 'discipline, pride and a sense of belonging' that could be harnessed in any school setting.

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Partnerships for Success

Ultimately, the report argues that developing partnerships with the military would lead to more students graduating from high school and greater rates of participation in postsecondary education.

NASBE acknowledges that most of the work to develop these partnerships will have to happen at the local level. But the report does offer several recommendations that state boards could use to facilitate the process:

  • Examining policies to ensure that they don't hinder student participation in programs that help young people become 'productive and responsible citizens' (like, presumably, JROTC).
  • Instituting cognitive and noncognitive assessments as diagnostic tools to help students plan their transitions from high school to college. NASBE points out that these assessments could be based on military tools like the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB).
  • Leveraging the authority of the board over school counseling mandates, guidance counselor certification requirements and school counseling programs to encourage counselors to inform students and parents about education strategies that include military-themed or -generated programs. NASBE also suggests that boards encourage guidance counselors to include the military as another postsecondary option along with college and work.
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