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Aurora Institute

New Year Brings New Military Classification for Online High School Graduates

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Federal Policy, Issues in Practice

Happy New Year, iNACOL colleagues and friends! As online learning continues to grow for K-12 students across the globe in 2012, a new resolution was signed into law by the President that benefits high school graduates of full-time online learning programs in the U.S.

In the past, seniors graduating from full-time online high schools have faced obstacles in their efforts to join the U.S. military. With the Department of Defense classifying an online high school graduate’s diplomas as “non-traditional,” the graduate is given a different recruitment rank, or tier, than a graduate of a traditional, brick and mortar high school, who would be classified as “Tier I” military recruit, compared to the “Tier II” title given to a graduate with an online learning diploma. Based on the Defense Department’s policies, the military is limited to the number of recruits it will admit each year from the Tier II division, accepting up to 10 percent for the Army and the National Guard, 5 percent for the Navy and the Marine Corps, and 1 percent for the Air Force.

Thanks to the House Armed Services Committee this outdated policy has changed, as the committee inserted new language into the National Defense Authorization Act, the 2012 defense spending bill, which was passed by both the House and Senate mid-December and was delivered to President Obama’s desk – with the coming of the New Year, the President signed the change into law.

Under the House Armed Services Committee’s provision, the bill:

“Requires the Secretary concerned, for the purposes of recruitment or enlistment, to treat a graduate who receives a diploma from a legally operating secondary school or otherwise completes a program of secondary education in compliance with that state’s education laws as a graduate of a secondary school as defined under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. Directs the Secretary of Defense to prescribe a policy that incorporates means for identifying such graduates who are qualified for recruitment and enlistment. Requires each Secretary concerned to: (1) develop a recruitment plan and strategy for targeting various segments of potential recruits with all types of secondary education credentials, and (2) develop a communication plan to ensure that the policy and plan are understood by military recruiters.” (Sec. 526)

Having online high school graduates recognized for military recruitment under the same guidelines as their peers who hold traditional diplomas is a great step forward for K-12 online learning.

To gather another perspective, Patty MacIntyre, Principal of the San Diego Unified School District’s iHigh Virtual Academy, shared what it means for graduates of the SDUSD program:

“The military’s Tier II policy presented a serious obstacle for iHigh Virtual Academy students. We are the only online high school in San Diego Unified, a district in which military students comprised 12% of the district’s population in 2010-11. Under Tier II, we literally had to advise our military-bound seniors to transfer back to their schools of residence in order to ensure their eligibility for enlistment.

“One Class of 2011 iHigh graduate decided to enlist in the Army later that summer. The student was an exceptional young man who had graduated Salutatorian with a 3.65 GPA, yet the Army sergeant who came to speak with me that summer regarding the student’s enlistment was only focused on how much of the iHigh program was classroom-based. The student’s significant qualifications were essentially neutralized by the outdated regulations.

“Ironically, the Department of Defense Education Activity released applications for their Virtual Learning grant that same summer. iHigh was a significant partner in developing the San Diego Unified proposal, which was funded in September 2011 ($2.9 million over three years). The grant will expand iHigh’s fulltime and part-time online enrollments across the district, serving 65% military students. The removal of Tier II restrictions will mean that these students can take advantage of the flexibility and opportunities provided by online courses, while still remaining eligible to enlist in the armed forces following graduation. Happy Holidays, indeed!”

In the New Year, iNACOL thanks President Obama for his signature on the National Defense Authorization Act, and we remain dedicated to ensuring that all students have access to world-class education and opportunities that prepare them for a lifetime of success.