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Do You Have PCS Exit Plan?

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Some teachers use “Exit Tickets” as a learning strategy. It’s the last thing students submit at the end of a lesson. These Exit Tickets offer quick insights into what part of the day’s learning goals a student understands and where the student needs extra support. This same Exit Ticket philosophy can help a family gain quick insights into a student’s strengths and challenges when leaving for a new school. For military families, the Exit Ticket becomes an Exit Plan.

These Exit Plans are especially important for military-connected students who move every two-to-three years on military orders. With each move, students encounter new schools, new curriculums, and new state standards. But, with a strong Exit Plan, student transitions become easier to navigate. Teachers and students can build an Exit Plan together to help cultivate smooth academic and social/emotional transitions. 

This year Exit Plans are more important than ever. The educational shift schools had to make due to COVID-19 will have a noticeable impact on students both in this academic year and next. Students across the nation have experienced school in amazing new ways from virtual to hybrid to in-person all depending on the state and district COVID policy. These new learning platforms along with a military PCS makes it vital to offer military-connected students a little extra support on each side of the transition. The Exit Plan is designed to ensure students receive that support.

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What Is an Exit Plan?

According to Seasons of My Military Student, an Exit Plan in the discussion between teachers, parents, and students as they enter into a “Season of Leaving.” The planning for the Exit Plan should consider everything from final dates a student will be on campus, to meaningful ways to say goodbye. The Exit Plan brings to light academic strengths in learning as well as challenges the student has encountered in building skills needed for success in a new school environment. This year the Exit Plan will also need to discuss the student’s reaction to the COVID-19 learning environment and readiness for potential return to a classroom at a new school.

How to Initiate an Exit Plan

Parents should contact the school as early as possible to let them know a military move is scheduled. This phone call or email typically starts with the school counselor, but it should also include the student’s teacher(s).  Unless explicitly told, the school office will not relay the message of an upcoming PCS to the classroom teacher. No matter the age or grade of a student, all teachers need to be notified as soon as possible that a military move is on the horizon.

Building a Strong Exit Plan

Step 1

Request a meeting with the school counselor to discuss the earliest date a student can withdraw from school and still receive credit for coursework. 

INFORM the counselor of the impending PCS. Talk to him about potential withdrawal dates and any concerns both academic and social/emotional the student and family have about the move. The counselor may have ideas on how to support and encourage the student in her last few weeks of school. These ideas should range from keeping up with schoolwork in a stressful moving situation. Ideas should also consider how to hold onto key friendships through the move. 

ASK about the school’s withdrawal policies, options for early withdrawal, and how to collect student records to hand-carry to receiving school. Ask about any end-of-year school-wide exams and how the school honors the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children (LINK) to ensure the student has a smooth transition. Bring a copy of the Interstate Compact to the discussion to help facilitate the conversation, but be ready for them not to know much about MiC3.

Step 2

Request a meeting with every teacher as early as possible. Start with focusing on core teachers as well as current elective teachers the student hopes to continue at the new school. The school counselor can help schedule a meeting either between individual teachers or with several teachers at once. Create an agenda of talking points for the meeting. Remember most teachers may not be aware of all the steps it takes for a family to move on military orders, come prepared to help them see the upcoming hurdles the student must encounter for a successful transition.

Ask & Inform

  • INFORM teachers of important dates or appointments that will impact the last few weeks of the student’s time on campus. Consider doctor appointments, packing household goods, house hunting, as well as family or base events the student needs to attend. Overseas moves have additional base and medical appointments the student must attend; be sure the teacher is aware of the possibility of several upcoming absences (all excused under the Interstate Compact!)
  • ASK if there are any non-negotiable or highly recommended dates a student needs to be in class. These dates might include final project presentations and final tests or all-school celebrations and field trips. When possible, honor these teacher-directed dates; when scheduling conflicts arise, talk to the teacher about alternative dates or assignments.
  •  INFORM teachers of any concerns about academic progress or skill development. Discuss with the teacher any observations the parent or student has on his ability to keep up with learning goals and strategies. This is the last time parents may be able to request testing for implementation of formal supports before starting at a new school.
    • If the process hasn’t already been started, start the evaluation process for 504, IEP, or Gifted (TAG) programs now!
  • ASK if there are skill areas the student has not yet developed to be successful in a new school. Request help in building student skills in the transition period between leaving the current school and enrolling in a new school. Educators often talk about the summer slide, military-connected students also focus on preventing a PCS Slide. Ask what skills the teacher would recommend the student focus on during the transition.
  • INFORM each teacher of student goals for the new school year. Does the student hope to transition into honors classes? Does the student hope to continue with specific electives that may be difficult to enroll without recommendations from local teachers? Are there sports or extracurricular activities the student plans to pursue? By the time the student arrives at his new school, those classes and clubs may be full. But, arriving with current letters of introduction helps break through many registration barriers. 
  • ASK each teacher to write a letter of introduction of the student to the new school.  These letters can be used to help the counselor register the student in the correct level of classes, and they can help introduce the student to the new teachers. The letter can include anything from academic strengths or supports needed for success to student hobbies and recommendations for extra-curricular activities. They can also be used to help explain content mastered that prepared the student for a new course challenge. This year, letters should also discuss if the student attended school virtually, hybrid, or in person. Families likely do not know the learning environment at their new destination. Arriving with a letter from current teachers discussing the virtual or hybrid experience may help the new school in placing the student in classes.  

In any military move, ensuring a well-developed Exit Plan for students is imperative to their smooth transition out of one school and into another. The added challenges students faced this year with COVID-19 regulations and quarantines call for a heightened need for families and schools to work together to build a solid Exit Plan. As soon as military orders arrive, reach out to the school and schedule an Exit Plan meeting. It could be the difference between a rough transition and a smooth Exit in your child’s Season of Leaving.

Exit Plans Are a Ticket for Success for ALL Children

An exit plan makes the transition from one duty station to the next more successful for all children; however, exit plans are critical for students with IEPs. Creating an open line of communication with your child’s current school team will ensure your exit plan is complete with all the vital pieces of information the new school will need, including progress reports, behavior plans, IEPs, etc. In addition to these documents, you can ask the team members to prepare a short letter of introduction about your child that you can send along with your All About Me one-page summary to give the new team a sense of who your child is before they meet him. Sending this information ahead of time will start a collaborative relationship with the new team and help them prepare for your child and the accommodations and modifications they need.

About the Author

Amanda Trimillos, EdD, is a military spouse, mother, and National Board-Certified Teacher with extensive experience teaching military students in the United States and overseas. Amanda returned to the classroom during the height of the 20/21 pandemic. She teaches middle school language arts in one Colorado military-connected district.  She is co-author of Seasons of My Military Student: Practical Ideas for Parents and Teachers and wrote the essay “School Choices and Changes” in Stories Around the Table: Laughter, Wisdom, and Strength in Military Life.



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