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NEWS | Aug. 1, 2014

Gen. Grass, education secretary advise creating better higher-learning standards

By Amaani Lyle DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON – Creating better education standards is key to preparing military children for college and future careers, the U.S. government’s top education official and the National Guard Bureau’s chief said July 30.

“We want to empower young people to choose what they want to do, what they love and what they’re best at,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the Military Child Education Coalition National Training Seminar.

As such, Duncan said the DOE has also fortified its partnerships with community colleges, where he said real training leads to real jobs in surrounding communities.

“Community colleges that are getting this right are becoming economic engines … green energy jobs, (information technology), healthcare, advanced manufacturing,” he said. “It’s amazing what they’re doing when you continue to build their capacities.”

Duncan predicted many future jobs will be science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based, so considering how to maintain the interest of young people in these areas will be critical.

“The more we can build (peer) programs, replicate them and empower young people who are living with this every day and understand the challenges way better than you or I do (the better) … I think we can’t do enough of that,” Duncan said.

Duncan said states have raised college academic standards, a trend he called a “monumental shift in the right direction.”

“Standards are just what you need to know; how you teach those standards (is) the curriculum and … we’re asking more critical thinking skills.”

To help meet the demand of connecting qualified military children to higher-paying, hard-to-fill jobs, Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told the seminar that the new GI Bill allows service members to pass the benefits to their child, who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend school.

“The Guard can create an opportunity for those families … through different youth programs we have today,” Grass said.

But he acknowledged that as the operations tempo changes in coming years with many active-duty service members returning from deployments or retiring, children once ensconced in military communities may find themselves in school systems that aren’t necessarily aware of their backgrounds.

“They won’t have the connection that the Guard and Reserve has - that family support and programs.”

As budget constraints persist, the Guard and Reserve will need to capitalize on community-based non-profit organizations that specialize in supporting military families, Grass said.

The nation owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to military families who face many unique challenges, Education Secretary Duncan said.

“Our goal is simple: to have young people graduate from high school truly college-and-career ready as they take that next step on their education journey,” he said.