An initiative of Military Child Education Coalition ®
Easing School Transitions for Military Families
Share This Page

The Military Student Identifier:  What Is It and Why Are We So Excited About It?

12/17/2015 Published by: Amy Soupene

Login to Save Favorites

Military-connected children live in almost every zip code.  Let that sink in for a moment.  Chances are, wherever you live, there is at least one military-connected child in your area. Why is that a big deal?  I’m so glad you asked!

Military children move 3x more often than their civilian counterparts.  Think about it this way, between the pre-kindergarten ABC’s and the senior year finals, military-connected students will move 6-9 times.  6-9 times in 14 years.  That’s a lot of, “Hello my name is…, Want to be friends? Where’s the lunchroom? You’re my best friend! and Goodbye.”….and then the process repeats over and over and over.

That would be hard for an adult to navigate successfully, but military-connected students are being forced to learn this difficult dance at a time of huge personal growth and developmental changes.  They have many unique challenges that civilian students have never experienced. 


Military–Connected children know what it’s like to:

  • Have a parent deploy to an unsafe area
  • What it’s like to only interact with that parent virtually for a year, or more in some cases
  • What it’s like to have that parent come back injured or changed forever – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to have them return home


Needless to say, military-connected students have a lot going on.  And oftentimes, despite these challenges, they are resilient and figure out how to make lemonade out of lots of lemons.  The Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) recognizes this and we also know that these terrific kids can do even better with a little help now and then, especially at times of high stress.

The MCEC offers many programs and professional development for both the students and those who love them.  We are passionate about military-connected students and their families.  We’re proud to be their biggest fans!

Many academic professionals strongly desire to help their population of military-connected students.  This can be done through extra-curricular programs, groups, and resources for the students.  For the teachers, staff, and administrators there are professional development trainings to be more empathetic and aware of common struggles and how they can make a difference in a child's life.

But there’s one roadblock that we have hit countless times over the years.  And it is, how do we find these students and deliver to them all that we have to offer?  And on a larger scale, how can federal impact aid dollars more efficiently get to the schools that support these children?

The MCEC is so excited because included in the recently passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is the Military Student Identifier.  Students are not identified individually or by name.  However, children of active duty military are identified as a population. Hopefully, one day the criteria will be extended to include military-connected students of the National Guard and Reserves.

 This measure allows military leaders, educators, and others know how military-connected students as a group perform in comparison to their counterparts.  It is very similar to how we currently compare students based on gender or ethnicity.  It also simplifies the process and speeds up federal impact aid payments to the school districts with military-connected students.

Our own Dr. Mary Keller was recently quoted in a Military Times article on December 9, 2015.  She states it best:

 “We have an all-volunteer force that has endured more than 14 years of war with frequent and repeated military parent deployments,” said Mary Keller, president and CEO of the Military Child Education Coalition. “We also know military-connected children move three times more often than their peers, creating the opportunity for disruptions, disconnects and gaps in education, in addition to the stress of having parents away from home for long periods of time.”

Without the military student identifier, “educators and policy leaders have no way of knowing whether these students are faring well, keeping pace, or falling behind,” said Keller, in a statement thanking lawmakers for voting for the Every Student Succeeds Act.  “The identifier will provide data to inform both educators and policymakers, enabling them to adjust programs, direct resources and adopt strategies that support these students and their military families.”

The MCEC has advocated for many, many years for a Military Student Identifier.  The inclusion of the Military Student Identifier as part of the ESSA allows all who serve military-connected children to do our job much more productively.

Thank you for your support of military children and their families everywhere – even if you are only reading this article.  Caring and understanding are the first steps to helping.  

To all of our military and their families, we’re sending you an enormous, Texas-sized hug and a heart-felt Thank you!

Best wishes,



***Help us get the word out about SchoolQuest™ by liking us on Facebook!   Please visit our Homeroom on-line community and join the discussion. We’d love to hear what your thoughts are about this important topic!  SchoolQuest™ is an initiative of the Military Child Education Coalition® (MCEC®).   Follow us on the MCEC® Twitter feed . . . for the sake of the child!  

Share This Page


John R Harris, 12.29.2015


This is an interesting column, and we thank you for sharing. I’m afraid we’re still left with two questions though :

1. What exactly is a Military Student Identifier (MSI) ? Is in an individual number like an SSN that moves with the student, or is simply a yes/no checkbox in a school’s database ?

2. If the latter, does ESSA require schools to collect this data, or does collection (and onward transmission) remain voluntary ?

We ask because, as we know, 2/3 of all schools/states do not collect this data, and our experience in California suggests that they won’t until required by law. As an example, with the recent veto of Sen Block’s excellent bill SB369, schools in California will still not be aware of, and thus will not/cannot track or report our student’s progress.

Does ESSA change that, and if so, could you please explain how ? Does it require schools to ask yes/no questions, and save that data ? And does it require states to test and credit data so that we can track the group’s progress ?

If you could please clarify re the part of ESSA that covers MSI, that would really help our work.

As advocates, we know that the majority of schools in the country don’t collect this data, and knowing who the students are is the first step towards supporting them. If there is indeed some compunction in this law requiring schools to know their students, we can use that to encourage schools to further help our students’ succeed.

We’d really appreciate any clarifications or pointers you might have. Thank you again

John R Harris

Amy Soupene, 01.04.2016

Hello John,

I appreciate your interest in the Military Student Identifier and military-connected children.  With the very recent passage of the ESSA, there are still many details to be defined.  Many student populations, in addition to military students, are addressed in the bill.

From the various documents and articles that I have read, it appears that military-connected students will be compared as a group in reference to performance.  This is similar to current comparisons that look at gender, income, or ethnic groups.  In this manner military-connected students would not be identified individually.

The ESSA does not articulate how schools will be gathering information on military-connectedness.  Some states have already being gathering this information voluntarily with a simple document that indicates a yes or no.  It is unclear what reporting methods will become the norm, but with the passage of the ESSA and the desire to focus on student achievement and outcomes, it appears that schools will have to report on all student populations addressed in the bill.

I’m sorry I don’t have more definitive answers to your thoughtful questions.  It will be very interesting to see how the Military Student Identifier is implemented and data is subsequently shared.  The MCEC is very excited to have this information, as well.  For over 16 years we have sought to advocate for and assist military-connected children and their families.  Without a means of identifying our core population, our mission is exponentially more difficult.

Wishing you all the best.


Leave a Comment

Special Topics

Have some questions about homework help, school choices or unique student circumstances?  We'd like to try to help you find the answers.

Visit our Special Topics

College Prep Toolbox


GI Bill Comparison Tool

Find out what the GI Bill can do for you

ACT/SAT Prep by Number2

Free ACT/SAT prep

SAT Prep by the Khan Academy

Free SAT Prep


SAT/ACT prep free for military families

March 2 Success

Helping high school students with both high school and college prep materials.

College Options Services

Plan for your bright future using the information and resources found here.

myCollege Options

Research the best options for you

Register for the SAT

Register for the ACT


Ask Aunt Peggie

Ask Aunt Peggie your educational questions about military-connected students.