A Pre-PCS School Checklist

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The U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) reports that military children move six to nine times throughout their school years. For parents, this is a daunting statistic as each school environment has an impact on children's educational careers. While interruptions aren’t ideal, each PCS move allows military families the opportunity to try new schools that meet their kids' needs. Ultimately, the intent is to choose the best school that readily mixes with other important factors such as BAH, neighborhood culture, and commute times.  

School Deadlines and Timeliness

Military families often rely on personal experience to determine the best way to begin their hunt, but there are research tools designed to make the process simpler and more efficient. During the search, two factors remain steadfast when school shopping: timeliness and word-of-mouth reviews.

There will always be a deadline regardless of the avenue—public, private, or homeschooling. In particular, the most popular magnet or charter schools often require a lottery for acceptance and specific registration dates. It’s wise to understand those processes as soon as the "Where are we moving next?" questions begin.

Personal experiences and referrals from friends are invaluable. Begin networking and exploring. Read blogs, Facebook pages, and neighborhood forums relevant to your city. Post a general inquiry about what the schools are like in the area, and the answers will pour in. Moms and dads love to talk about their kids’ lives! Examine the general trend and ignore the worst and best comments to formulate an opinion based on the overall tone of the reviews.

The Best Places to Research Schools

A portfolio of trusted resources helps each move and school roundup be a little less mysterious. So start with these websites to build a school research strategy.

Nation's Report Card

State-to-state moves are somewhat more complicated than intra-state moves. The knowledge gleaned from the school district in California will not likely be relevant to the new school system in Florida. This Department of Education site compiles important testing scores, national rankings, and state-to-state comparisons. It allows parents to see how public and private schools stack up by assembling results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

School Quest

The Military Child Education Coalition provides families with this resource to navigate the entire moving process, not only school searches. In addition to an extensive library full of military child-related topics, there are many articles on easing the transitions to a new home and new school. There is also a guide to understanding the Military Interstate Children’s Compact Commission.

State Boards of Education and Local School Districts

State Boards of Education explain an overall view of education philosophies and goals for each school year. Budget information and state standard testing information are also available. The local school district websites describe, in detail, a wide variety of topics, from specialized education programs to before- and after-school care and school boundary calculators. Don’t underestimate the importance of investigating boundary lines and proposed future changes.

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Local School Resources

The best information is probably right outside the front door. Don’t ignore local resources; they provide the little details the big resources don’t include.

Local News Outlets

Online newspapers report on school happenings. In addition, local news websites such as the Patch relay neighborhood and school events weekly, often with an archive to read previous stories. This is an efficient way to learn about school-specific issues, such as scheduled building improvements or the new bell schedule taking effect for the high school.

In-Person Visits

Military families should consider visiting prospective schools for a tour and scheduling time for questions with the principal. During the meeting, talk about the average number of children in a class, extra-curricular opportunities, curriculum inquiries, and other programs pertaining to your child.

Parent Organizations

PTAs and PTOs provide information regarding parental involvement, fundraising needs, and representation at school board meetings. Some may even have a committee as a welcome wagon to new military families, providing useful school and neighborhood information.

Student Liaison Officer

Most military installations provide a School Liaison Officer (SLO) to help navigate the school transition process for all military children and their specific needs. The SLO can also offer advice on private and public school research and homeschool activities and often has relationships with local principals and teachers.


Go-to's such as GreatSchools and SchoolDigger are helpful for gathering more information about specific schools, their rankings, and family reviews but often don’t showcase the whole picture of the school. Use them sparingly, along with this checklist, to find a school where your child will thrive!








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