NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Think Minorities Can't Learn? Check Out Defense Schools

December 22, 1999

Defense Department-run schools on U.S. military bases are educating children far better than civilian public schools.

Moreover, the students at military schools are poorer on average and tend to come from minority families more often than their public school counterparts.

  • Of the 34,000 students being educated at 71 domestic military-base schools, more than 80 percent go on to attend college -- a far higher proportion than the 67 percent national rate.
  • On the 1998 National Assessment of Educational Progress eighth-grade writing test, military pupils came in No. 2 -- second only to Connecticut among 39 states and jurisdictions.
  • In reading, their eighth-graders tied for fourth out of 43.
  • Of the 13 NAEP tests the military scholars have taken at various grade levels and in different subjects, only once have they failed to top the national mean.

Yet at least half of military students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches because their parents are on the low end of the military pay scale. And 40 percent of the system's students are black or Hispanic -- 10 percentage points above the public school average.

  • But 35 percent of the poorer students demonstrated writing proficiency last year -- compared to only 10 percent of such students nationally.
  • And 26 percent of black students and 32 percent of Hispanics scored at or above proficiency -- far exceeding national averages of 7 percent for blacks and 10 percent for Hispanics.

The Pentagon spends about 23 percent more than the national average to educate its charges; but the secret to its success seems to lie in spending extra time and effort in training teachers and involving parents in schools. Class sizes are about the same as the national average.

Source: Daniel Golden, "Pentagon-Run Schools Excel in Academics, Defying Demographics," Wall Street Journal, December 22, 1999.


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