Students of the military’s educational system continue to outpace the U.S. national average on a standardized test that measures their basic skill levels in reading, math, science, social studies and languages.

Defense department students, both overseas and in the States, scored better than their public school counterparts in all areas, at all grade levels, test results indicate.

Students of the Department of Defense Education Activity, which runs military schools both overseas and in some southern states, outperformed peers on the TerraNova, indicative of the quality not just of students, but the educational support from teachers, families and commands, officials said.

“That means we have real good kids, real good teachers, and real good family support and that, in addition to some other things, is why we’ve been able to sustain scores above the national average,” said Janet Rope, the administrator for accountability, accreditation, research and evaluation at DODEA, headquartered in Arlington, Va.

“Superintendents would kill for these scores,” said Candace Ransing, deputy director for Department of Defense Dependents Schools in Europe.

The TerraNova is part of President Bush’s “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001,” which calls for annual testing of all third- through 11th-graders in core subjects. The initiative also calls for a minimum of 95 percent of eligible students to take the exams, Rope said.

In military schools, participation in 2003 was up from 95 percent to 97 percent after officials emphasized to teachers and administrators the importance of having as many students as possible take the test. Systemwide, 61,236 DODEA students in grades three through 11 took the nationally administered TerraNova exam, Rope said.

Parents get individual student test scores, and are able compare their child’s progress to the nationwide and systemwide scoring, Rope said.

In 37 of the 45 subtests, the military students’ scores were 10 to 20 points above the national average, five subtest scores were 21 to 25 points higher, and the remaining three subtest scores were seven to nine points higher, results indicate.

Over the past five years, defense schools have streamlined curriculums. Tests like the TerraNova let teachers fine-tune what they teach. Last year, schools focused on reading, while this year, math was the targeted subject.

“We look at the data, and where we don’t like the results that we see, we focus on the curriculum,” Ransing said.

She added military parents are one of the big reasons for children’s successes.

“We only have the kids for six hours of the day,” she said. “I think one of the unique things we have is that since we’re in a military community, it’s a close community. … We see parents consistently who care about how their kids do, and are in the schools [themselves].”

A combination of command pressure for academic performance and a willingness to give troops time off for school involvement help.

Parental involvement is the No. 1 predictor of a student’s success, Ransing said. “It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are … if the parents care about it, they care about it.”

The test also falls in line with DODEA’s five-year Community Strategic Plan, which states that by 2006, 75 percent of students to test in the highest two quadrants of the exam. This year, students were at the lowest end, in the 65th percentile in science, and in the 70th percentile, at the highest end, in reading and language.

To help students improve in other areas, the system has set up tutorial programs, such as reading and math support classes at the high school level that are offered as electives during the regular school day, Rope said.

“We’ve been focusing on high schools, … but we’re looking how to adapt the programs to help elementary and middle school students as well,” Rope said.

The scores ...

For a comparison of the average DODDS-Europe TerraNova test scores with the national average, click here.

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