MCEC is the national advocate for Purple Star Schools, a program that supports military-connected children as they relocate to new schools due to a parent’s change in duty station.
Military children move every two to three years. The Purple Star School program is designed to help schools respond to the educational and social-emotional challenges military-connected children face during their transition to a new school and keep them on track to be college, workforce, and life-ready. Military-connected refers to children of service members on active duty, and in the National Guard and Reserves.
MCEC is the nation’s most complete resource for states seeking to start a Purple Star School program. We stand ready to offer guidance and serve in a consultative role every step of the way. As of October 10, 2023, 38 states have received Purple Star School designation, and four states have proposed/pending legislation:
To better understand the landscape around and impact of the Purple Star program, MCEC partnered with the Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia University (CPRL) in 2020 to conduct a study of the program across four states. In 2021, CPRL and MCEC released a summary report of findings related to the landscape of the program, including recommendations for improvements at the school, district, and state levels. Read the original report here.
A new 2022 report builds on the findings from the 2021 summary and provides additional detail on how the program has been implemented over time. It specifically focuses on how the program has evolved and how stakeholders have worked to ensure rigor and sustainability.
Drawing on research across six focus states, this report reviews the benefits of, and challenges associated with program requirements, provides insights on program administration at various levels, discusses the effects of COVID-19 on PSS, and provides recommendations at the state, district, and school levels to improve and expand the initiative.
Read the 2022 Purple Star Research Reports here:
Once your state begins a program, we also offer support to individual schools seeking designation as a Purple Star School.
Learn more about Purple Star Schools and how your state can begin the process below. And if you have any questions, please contact Amanda Woodyard, MCEC Vice President of Education Services. She is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you a school professional responsible for overseeing the Purple Star Program requirements or application at your school or district? Our introductory training includes a deep dive into the topics listed below, delivered in three-hour sessions over a two-day period.
Module 1—Understanding The Need
Module 4—Welcome and Exit Planning
January 23 & 25
February 27 & 29
9 a.m. – 12 p.m. CST
Sponsored by the Alabama State Department of Education Fund
1–4 p.m. CST
Sponsored by the Alabama State Department of Education Fund
As a follow-on to Purple Star School Support training or a 360 Summit, find a community of learners to help you with every step of your application or redesignation process with our MCEC Purple Star Readiness ECHO®.
Running through May 2024, meet monthly online to address best practices and common challenges in your region. This professional learning community is unlike others you have experienced. The benefits of ECHO include collaboration, idea sharing, and problem solving with subject matter experts and peers.
Our community is online, but these ECHOs feature state-specific criteria and build upon experiences and knowledge from those working these issues in the field. We’re excited to offer Purple Star Readiness specific to these three states, click to learn more and join today:
Purple Star Schools:
Your Questions Answered
A Purple Star School is a public or charter school that has committed to supporting the unique educational and social-emotional needs of military-connected children.
These schools recognize that military-connected students must move whenever their active-duty parent receives a relocation order (called a Permanent Change of Station) and will uproot and change schools far more often than their civilian peers.
In fact, a military-connected child can expect to move six to nine times from kindergarten through their high school graduation, with approximately 200,000 students transitioning to a new school in any given year.
How they help
Purple Star Schools help military-connected students transition successfully with measures that include:
A primary goal of these programs is to ensure that staff can help manage the challenges military-connected children face when they move between schools with different cultures, curricula, standards, course offerings, schedules and graduation requirements.
Purple Star Schools are especially attentive to students who arrive mid-year, missing out on the normal cycles of sports and club activities.
Finally, Purple Star Schools acknowledge that every military-connected child has left behind friends and support networks and may be dealing with a parent who is away from home on deployment.
A national, grassroots effort, the Purple Star School initiative encourages states to develop a certification program that designates qualifying schools as friendly to, and familiar with, the unique education and social-emotional needs of military-connected children.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to Purple Star School programs, most states create an application process in which schools apply for designation as a Purple Star School by showing they have, at a minimum, met the four basic criteria noted above. Learn more about the criteria under the requirements section below.
The initiative has been so successful in certain states, military parents now routinely seek out Purple Star Schools for their children due to the level of support they can expect from these schools and their awareness of the challenges of life in a military family.
School District programs
The Purple Star School initiative is intentionally flexible: individual school districts are encouraged to start a program when their state department of education is unable to do so. MCEC can provide comprehensive guidance and consultation for states and school districts seeking to launch a program.
There are two ways in which states launch a Purple Star School designation program. In a more formal process, states can pass legislation establishing a program. The advantage of this method is that it may allow for budget allocations in support of the program. For an example of Purple Star legislation and process, click here.
States may also take a more informal route by having the state department of education establish and manage the program. The advantage here is that the passage of legislation is not required for this option.
One of the most important aspects of any state program is ensuring the local education agencies and school districts are aware of the program and that they disseminate applications to local schools to encourage them to apply for a Purple Star School designation. This can be achieved through online brochures and other outreach.
MCEC is available to support states, local education agencies and school districts with guidance on establishing, implementing and promoting a Purple Star School program. There are helpful resources in the last section to get you started. Contact MCEC for support with your Purple Star School program.
Once a state has launched a Purple Star School designation program, the state department of education will establish an application process, which is then promoted to schools through local education agencies and school districts.
In the states that have implemented a Purple Star Schools designation program, a school seeking the designation must demonstrate that it has met the Purple Star School requirements set by its state.
MCEC would recommend that states consider, at a minimum, adopting the four requirements for a military-friendly school originating from MCEC’s 2000 Secondary Education Transition Study (commissioned by the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center).
These require that the school:
In addition to these four criteria, states might wish to consider requiring schools to meet one additional criteria chosen from a menu of options.
Such options might include:
School District Programs
The Purple Star School initiative is intentionally flexible: individual school districts are encouraged to start a program when their state department of education is unable to do so. MCEC recommends that schools districts establishing a program follow the same requirements for certification as a state program.
MCEC can provide comprehensive guidance and consultation for states and school districts at all points in the process.
Eighty percent of America’s military-connected children attend public schools. In every state with a military installation, there will be military-connected children transitioning into and out of nearby public schools because of a parent's Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders.
With an estimated 1.2 million active-duty military-connected children enrolled in schools in the United States and abroad, the number of children affected by these transitions is significant.
To date, there are only nine states with Purple Star School programs. MCEC’s goal is that every state in the nation should commit to our military families by initiating a Purple Star School designation program.
Why states should start up a Purple Star Schools Program:
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have signed the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
This Compact is an agreement among states to provide uniform treatment for military children moving to new school districts.
Its goals include ensuring that military-connected children are immediately enrolled in their new school after a move, placed in the appropriate academic program, and are able to graduate on time. Because compacts are passed through a state’s legislature and signed into law by the governor, they carry the same weight as statutory law.
Many states are challenged to find ways to support their commitment to the Compact. While the Purple Star Program is not endorsed by, nor associated with the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission (MIC3), which administers the Compact, creating a Purple Star School program is a method that some states have chosen to implement on their own. Such a program encourages schools to help address transition issues for military children in a timely and consistent manner, and the Commission is appreciative of any state doing more to support military families and children.
Purple Star Schools offer even wider benefits to schools and communities:
MCEC is available every to step of the way to support states, local education agencies and school districts with guidance on establishing, implementing and promoting a state program.
Please reach out to our contact for Purple Star Schools – Amanda Woodyard, MCEC Vice President of Education Services. She is available at email@example.com
For those considering starting a Purple Star School program, here are some helpful resources:
New Hampshire starts up statewide Purple Star program
Department of Defense names the Purple Star designation a new priority
Texas designates 106 campuses as Purple Star Schools
More states should focus on supporting the needs of military kids
Purple Star designation can help local communities retain bases
Two Schools named 2020 Purple Star Schools in Fairfax County. Va.
Several Ohio schools earn Purple Star award
More Ohio schools receive the Purple Star
Indiana’s inaugural class of 60 Purple Star Schools
South Carolina gives Purple Star designation to schools in 10 districts.
Scores of schools in North Carolina earn Purple Star recognition
Virginia’s big push to designate Purple Star Schools