oversight

Military Dependent Students: Better Oversight Needed to Improve Services for Children with Special Needs

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2012-09-10.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                 United States Government Accountability Office

GAO              Report to the Committee on Armed
                 Services, U.S. Senate



September 2012
                 MILITARY
                 DEPENDENT
                 STUDENTS
                 Better Oversight
                 Needed to Improve
                 Services for Children
                 with Special Needs




GAO-12-680
                                            September 2012

                                            MILITARY DEPENDENT STUDENTS
                                            Better Oversight Needed to Improve Services for
                                            Children with Special Needs
Highlights of GAO-12-680, a report to the
Committee on Armed Services, U.S. Senate




Why GAO Did This Study                      What GAO Found
DOD operates a worldwide school             The Department of Defense (DOD) provides special education services through
system to meet the educational needs        a complex system that varies by location. Domestically, DOD provides special
of military dependents. Questions have      education mainly within DOD schools. In contrast, DOD schools overseas vary in
arisen about whether DOD is meeting         the types and levels of disabilities they are readily equipped to serve. For
the special needs of some of these          example, DOD schools in Ramstein, Germany, are equipped to serve children
children, such as those with learning       with severe disabilities of any type, whereas schools in some other overseas
disabilities. In response to a mandate      installations have no pre-established special education programs of any kind.
in the National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2011, GAO               Overseas assignment of servicemembers with children with special educational
reviewed (1) how DOD provides               needs requires coordination between the military branches through their
special education services; (2) how         Exceptional Family Member (EFM) programs and the DOD Education Activity—
DOD entities coordinate to assign           the office that oversees education of military dependent children in DOD schools.
families overseas and how schools           Each branch implements its own processes for screening military families and
might be affected; (3) what challenges,     assigning servicemembers to locations where there are school services that can
if any, families face in accessing DOD      meet their families’ needs. However, impediments to effective placements may
services for their children with special    strain school resources. More specifically, ineffective screenings may result in
educational needs and obtaining             families being placed in locations where schools are not readily equipped to
related information; and (4) what steps,    serve certain needs. For example, we found one case in which a school that only
if any, DOD is taking to enhance            had programs in place for students with mild disabilities received a student with
screening and overseas assignment           severe needs who had not been educationally screened.
for families with children with special
educational needs. GAO reviewed             Families in many of GAO’s focus groups were generally satisfied with the
relevant federal laws and regulations,      services DOD provided their children with special needs once they received
analyzed DOD documents and data,            them, but they felt that the limited availability of special education and medical
and conducted interviews with officials     specialists overseas presented challenges. Some parents were concerned their
from multiple DOD entities, including       children were not receiving all the services they needed, partly due to difficulties
schools. GAO also held 22 focus             DOD schools encounter hiring and retaining special education staff, especially
groups with parents of children with        overseas. While the military branches provide family support services, parents in
special needs during site visits and        our focus groups also indicated they lacked information about obtaining special
phone interviews at eight military          education and related medical services. DOD is taking some steps to provide
installations worldwide.                    better information to families, but the extent to which these efforts are helping
What GAO Recommends                         them is unclear.
                                            DOD’s recently established Office of Special Needs (OSN) is responsible for
GAO recommends that the Secretary           enhancing and monitoring support for military families with special needs. OSN
of Defense (1) ensure the military
                                            and the military branches have initiated efforts to improve screening and
branches medically and educationally
                                            overseas assignment of military families with special needs. However, it is
screen all school-age children before
relocation overseas; (2) direct OSN to      unclear when some of these efforts will be completed. Moreover, while OSN was
establish benchmarks and                    established in part to enhance and monitor the military branches’ support for
performance goals for the EFM               families with special needs, it has limited enforcement authority and oversight
program; and (3) direct OSN to              over the branches’ EFM programs. Specifically, it is limited in the extent to which
develop and implement a process for         it can compel the branches to comply with DOD or service-level program
ensuring the branches’ compliance           requirements, and it has no direct means by which to hold them accountable if
with EFM program requirements. DOD          they fail to do so. In addition, DOD currently lacks agencywide benchmarks and
generally agreed with the                   performance goals for all components of the EFM program. As a result, it cannot
recommendations.                            assess the effectiveness of the branches’ EFM programs and ensure that
View GAO-12-680. For more information,      improvements are made when needed. Without overall performance information
contact George Scott at (202) 512-7215 or   to proactively identify emerging problem areas, some of the branches have had
scottg@gao.gov.                             to conduct investigations to address problems after they have arisen.

                                                                                     United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                                1
                       Background                                                                     3
                       DOD Provides Special Education Services through a Complex
                         System That Varies by Location                                             11
                       Military Branches Screen Families and Consult with DODEA to
                         Assign Families to Overseas Locations, but Ineffective Processes
                         May Strain School Resources                                                15
                       Families Generally Satisfied with Special Education Services, but
                         Face Challenges Obtaining Them                                             20
                       DOD Is Taking Steps to Improve EFM Programs, but Limited
                         Oversight Hinders Its Ability to Assess and Ensure Program
                         Effectiveness                                                              25
                       Conclusions                                                                  29
                       Recommendations for Executive Action                                         30
                       Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                           31

Appendix I             Scope and Methodology                                                        34



Appendix II            DODEA Categories and Definitions of Disabilities                             38



Appendix III           Comments from the Department of Defense                                      42



Appendix IV            GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                        45



Related GAO Products                                                                                46



Table
                       Table 1: Site Visit Installation and School Selection                        35




                       Page i                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Figures
          Figure 1: Location of DOD Schools and Number of Students
                   Receiving Special Education Services, January 2012                                4
          Figure 2: Primary Type of Disability of Children Enrolled in DOD
                   Schools, January 2012                                                             6
          Figure 3: IEP Process for DOD Schools                                                      8
          Figure 4: DOD Entities That Provide Special Education Services                            11
          Figure 5: Examples of Variation in Levels of Services Available at
                   DOD Schools Overseas                                                             13




          Abbreviations

          DOD                        Department of Defense
          DODEA                      Department of Defense Education Activity
          EDIS                       Educational and Developmental Intervention
                                     Services
          EFM (Program)              Exceptional Family Member Program
          IDEA                       Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
          IEP                        Individualized Education Program
          NDAA                       National Defense Authorization Act
          OSN                        Office of Special Needs




          This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the
          United States. The published product may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety
          without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain
          copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be
          necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately.




          Page ii                                            GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
United States Government Accountability Office
Washington, DC 20548




                                   September 10, 2012

                                   The Honorable Carl Levin
                                   Chairman
                                   The Honorable John S. McCain
                                   Ranking Member
                                   Committee on Armed Services
                                   United States Senate

                                   Military families who have children with special needs, such as
                                   communication impairments or learning disabilities, face a unique set of
                                   challenges, in part due to their frequent moves within the United States
                                   and to overseas installations. 1 Recent executive branch, congressional,
                                   and advocacy group initiatives have focused on increasing support for
                                   these families. For example, in 2011 the White House issued a report
                                   making the care and support of military families a top national security
                                   policy priority, including ensuring excellence in military children’s
                                   education and development.

                                   About 12 percent of the approximately 85,000 children enrolled in
                                   Department of Defense (DOD) schools worldwide received special
                                   education services in the 2011-12 school year, and over half of these
                                   students were in schools overseas. 2 DOD is required to provide special
                                   education and related services for children with disabilities who attend
                                   DOD schools, as prescribed in the Individuals with Disabilities Education
                                   Act (IDEA). 3

                                   Given the important role DOD schools play in serving highly mobile
                                   military families, questions have arisen regarding whether DOD is
                                   meeting the complex needs of students with special needs. 4 In response


                                   1
                                    For the purpose of this report, the terms “special needs” and “disabilities” will be used
                                   interchangeably, unless indicated otherwise.
                                   2
                                    Data are as of January 2012.
                                   3
                                    Codified at 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 to 1482.
                                   4
                                    The term “special needs” encompasses both children with disabilities that receive special
                                   education services as well as children that meet the definition of special needs under the
                                   military branches’ Exceptional Family Member programs, both of which are discussed
                                   later in this report.




                                   Page 1                                              GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
to a mandate in the Senate report accompanying the National Defense
Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2011, 5 GAO examined (1) how
DOD provides special education services; (2) how DOD entities
coordinate to assign servicemembers accompanied by their families to
overseas locations and how schools might be affected; (3) what
challenges, if any, families face in accessing DOD services for their
children with special educational needs and obtaining related information;
and (4) what steps, if any, DOD is taking to enhance assignment
coordination for servicemembers who have children with special
educational needs.

To address these questions, we reviewed relevant federal laws and
regulations and analyzed DOD policy and guidance documents. We also
obtained data from the DOD Education Activity (DODEA)—the office that
oversees the education of military dependent children in DOD schools—
on the number and characteristics of students in DOD schools receiving
special education services in the United States and overseas, as well as
quantitative and qualitative data on educational screenings and family
assignment concerns. We determined these data to be reliable for the
purpose of describing the population of children with disabilities in DOD
schools and reporting information about screenings and assignment
concerns. We conducted site visits to five military installations in Europe
and two in the United States, as well as telephone interviews with agency
officials at one military installation in the Pacific. We selected these
locations based on several criteria, including the number of children with
disabilities enrolled in DOD schools, the level of special education
services schools were equipped to provide, variation in urban and remote
areas, and variation among the four military branches. During our site
visits and Pacific teleconference, we conducted meetings with officials
from 15 schools and held 22 focus groups with the parents of students
receiving special education services to discuss their perceptions of the
services their children have received. While the results of these focus
groups cannot be generalized to all parents of children with disabilities,
nor are they representative of the population of parents, common
responses across groups and recurring themes provide some degree of
validation. We also interviewed DODEA officials in the United States and
overseas, including district and school officials, such as principals, special
education coordinators, and teachers. In addition, we interviewed officials



5
S. Rep. No. 111-201, at 138 (2010).




Page 2                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                           from DOD’s Office of Special Needs (OSN), the military branches, subject
                           matter experts, and advocacy groups. Finally, we met with
                           representatives from other DOD entities, including the military branches’
                           Educational and Developmental Intervention Services (EDIS) and the
                           Exceptional Family Member (EFM) programs involved in screening and
                           supporting this population. Appendix I provides a detailed description of
                           our scope and methodology.

                           We conducted this performance audit from May 2011 through September
                           2012 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
                           standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
                           obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
                           our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
                           that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
                           and conclusions based on our audit objectives.



Background

DOD Schools and Students   DOD operates a worldwide school system to meet the educational needs
with Disabilities          of military dependent students and others, such as the children of DOD’s
                           civilian employees overseas. DODEA oversees the management and
                           operation of 196 schools in seven states; Puerto Rico and Guam; and 12
                           foreign countries. DODEA has organized its schools into three areas—the
                           United States, Europe, and the Pacific—and multiple districts within each
                           area. About 66 percent (130 of 196) of DOD schools are located overseas
                           serving about 68 percent of the student population (approximately 58,000
                           of 85,000 children) (see fig. 1). The overseas schools are mainly
                           concentrated in Germany and Japan, where the United States built
                           military installations after World War II. Almost all the domestic schools
                           are in the southeastern United States.




                           Page 3                                   GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Figure 1: Location of DOD Schools and Number of Students Receiving Special Education Services, January 2012




                                       DOD schools provide a comprehensive kindergarten through 12th grade
                                       curriculum. 6 Approximately 12 percent (or about 10,200 students) of all
                                       students received special education services in the 2011-12 school year.


                                       6
                                        DOD also provides pre-kindergarten programs for children between the ages of 3 and 5
                                       in its domestic schools. However, the overseas schools only provide pre-kindergarten
                                       programs for children with disabilities.




                                       Page 4                                          GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
As of January 2012, the most prevalent disabilities among children
enrolled in DOD schools were communication impairments (such as
speech and language impairments), specific learning disabilities, and
developmental delays, cumulatively representing about 71 percent of this
population (see fig. 2). 7 Appendix II provides DOD’s categories and
definitions of disabilities. While some children may have more than one
type of disability, DODEA bases its criteria for determining eligibility for
receiving special education services on the primary type of disability that
has the greatest educational impact.




7
  The total number of children used as the basis for these calculations is about 9,200,
rather than the 10,200 reported above. This is primarily because, at any given point in
time, some children’s special education eligibility is under review, and DODEA’s database
does not capture their disability type.




Page 5                                            GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Figure 2: Primary Type of Disability of Children Enrolled in DOD Schools, January 2012




                                         Although DOD schools do not receive IDEA funding, DOD is required to
                                         provide in its educational programs the substantive rights, protections,
                                         and procedural safeguards for students with disabilities under IDEA. 8
                                         Specifically, DOD is required to provide these children early intervention
                                         services, and special education and related services. For children ages 3
                                         to 21, this includes identifying and evaluating eligible children; developing
                                         and implementing an individualized education program (IEP) for such
                                         students (see fig. 3); and providing the students special education and




                                         8
                                          10 U.S.C. § 2164(f), 20 U.S.C. § 927(c).




                                         Page 6                                          GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
related services. 9 The military medical departments—through their EDIS
programs—are responsible for providing selected related services as well
as completing evaluations for certain disabilities, such as autism or visual
or hearing impairments, that may require medical expertise.




9
 DOD Instruction 1342.12, Provision of Early Intervention and Special Education Services
to Eligible DoD Dependents, April 11, 2005. Special education is specially designed
instruction which is provided at no cost to parents to meet the unique needs of a child with
a disability. Related services include speech-language pathology and audiology,
psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, early identification and
assessment of disabilities in children, and other services. In this report we refer to special
education and related services as special education services.




Page 7                                               GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Figure 3: IEP Process for DOD Schools




a
 The Case Study Committee is a multidisciplinary team of special educators, regular educators,
related services personnel, administrators, and parents, where appropriate.




Page 8                                                  GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Exceptional Family   To implement DOD’s policy regarding overseas travel for eligible military
Member Program       dependents with special needs, each branch is required to establish its
                     own EFM program for active duty servicemembers. 10 The Army set up the
                     first EFM program in 1979; since that time, the Air Force, Marine Corps,
                     and Navy have also established EFM programs. EFM programs have
                     three components—identification and enrollment, assignment
                     coordination, and family support services.

                     •    Identification and Enrollment. Active duty servicemembers with
                          eligible family members are required to enroll in the EFM program for
                          their branch to document dependents’ special needs, so that medical
                          and educational personnel can review the availability of medical and
                          educational resources in planned assignment locations. 11

                     •    Assignment Coordination. Each military branch is required to
                          identify, document, and consider a military family member’s special
                          needs during the process of assigning servicemembers to a particular
                          installation. Screening and assignment coordination occur when the
                          branch’s personnel command requests that medical and/or
                          educational professionals review a family member’s documented
                          needs to determine the availability of DOD’s specialized medical and
                          educational services at a planned location.

                     •    Family Support. Each military branch’s EFM program is required to
                          include a family support component. EFM program family support
                          personnel assist families with special needs by helping them identify
                          and access programs and services. Services may include information
                          and referrals for military and community services, education and
                          training about issues related to the special needs, local school



                     10
                       Department of Defense Instruction 1315.19, Authorizing Special Needs Family Members
                     Travel Overseas at Government Expense (Dec. 20, 2005). DOD officials stated that while
                     this guidance was intended for overseas travel, DOD also uses it to identify family
                     members with special medical needs within the United States.
                     11
                       An eligible family member is generally defined as (1) a spouse, child, or dependent adult
                     who, regardless of age, has special medical needs and requires medical services for a
                     chronic condition such as asthma, attention deficit disorder, diabetes, multiple sclerosis,
                     etc.; receives ongoing services from a medical specialist; or has significant behavioral
                     health concerns; or (2) a child (birth through 21 years) with special educational needs who
                     is eligible for, or receives, special education services through an IEP; or Early Intervention
                     Services through an Individualized Family Service Plan. Civilian families are not eligible
                     for EFM programs.




                     Page 9                                              GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
     information, nonclinical case management, and assistance
     transitioning between installations.

The NDAA for Fiscal Year 2010 expanded support for military families
with special needs. 12 While initial EFM program requirements only
included identification and enrollment and assignment coordination, the
Act requires DOD to develop and implement a comprehensive policy on
family support. While the Army and Marine Corps incorporated family
support programs into their EFM programs prior to this requirement, the
Air Force and Navy began incorporating family support programs in 2010.
The Act also created the Office of Community Support for Military
Families with Special Needs, referred to as OSN, and specified its
responsibilities to include

•    developing and implementing a comprehensive policy for the support
     of military families with special needs,

•    establishing and overseeing associated programs,

•    identifying gaps in DOD services for military families with special
     needs,

•    developing plans to address gaps in DOD services through
     appropriate mechanisms such as enhancing resources and training,
     and ensuring the provision of special assistance,

•    monitoring the programs of the military departments for the
     assignment of servicemembers who are members of families with
     special needs and the programs in support of such families, and

•    advising the Secretary of Defense on the adequacy of such programs
     in conjunction with DOD budgeting and planning activities.




12
  National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-84, § 563, 123
Stat. 2190, 2304 (2009).




Page 10                                           GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                        Like public schools in the United States, DOD is required to provide
DOD Provides Special    special education and related services necessary to meet the unique
Education Services      needs of eligible students. As needed, DOD schools provide special
                        education services in all schools worldwide and related services (such as
through a Complex       occupational and physical therapy) in its domestic schools only.
System That Varies by   Overseas, each branch’s medical department provides related services to
Location                eligible students through its EDIS program. A child with a disability may
                        receive services from some or all of the DOD entities shown in figure 4,
                        depending on the family’s location.

                        Figure 4: DOD Entities That Provide Special Education Services




                        Services for children with disabilities in DOD schools may include
                        consultation by special educators to general classroom teachers or
                        instruction in a special education classroom for part or all of the school
                        day. In addition to special and general education teachers, DOD schools
                        employ paraprofessionals—who assist and support teachers— and
                        specialists, such as speech and language therapists. DOD schools in the
                        United States also provide related services, such as physical and
                        occupational therapy.

                        The military branches’ medical departments provide different types of
                        services for children with disabilities through their EDIS programs. EDIS
                        helps identify children with disabilities and delivers early intervention
                        services to eligible infants and toddlers, from birth through age 2. EDIS
                        also provides medical assessments necessary to determine children’s
                        eligibility for special education services. For example, in order to provide
                        special education services for children with emotional impairments or
                        autism spectrum disorders, DODEA requires medical evaluations and
                        diagnoses by qualified medical professionals, such as developmental
                        pediatricians, psychologists, or psychiatrists. Although military families
                        may use civilian providers in the United States, when stationed overseas,



                        Page 11                                      GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
only military providers may provide these diagnoses for children attending
DOD schools. Overseas, EDIS also provides related services for children
enrolled in DOD schools.

Domestic DOD schools provide special education for all types and levels
of disabilities, mainly within DOD schools. However, according to DOD, in
certain cases students may receive services from external service
providers that DOD contracts with or they may be placed in local public
schools. Overseas, the military branches and DODEA have implemented
a system of specific, pre-established programs for different types of
disabilities and levels of services in each school. For example, schools in
Ramstein, Germany, have programs designed to serve children with all
types of disabilities, whereas schools in Iwakuni, Japan, have programs
that serve only a few types of disabilities, and the Seville Elementary
School in Spain has no programs for any type of disability. Agency
officials explained that this variation is a function of the size of the military
community and the needs of the military. To help facilitate intra-agency
communication about these differences, DOD developed a directory that
indicates which pre-established programs are available in each school
overseas. (See figure 5 for an excerpt of this directory.)




Page 12                                      GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Figure 5: Examples of Variation in Levels of Services Available at DOD Schools
Overseas




Notes: All disabilities reflect a continuum of severity, ranging from mild to moderate to severe. The
types of services provided and the levels of disabilities are described in detail in the DOD Services
Directory for overseas locations. Below are some examples of the types of services provided for each
level. However, the descriptions are neither complete nor representative of all disability types.
a
 Developmental delay is a disability category for children from birth through age 7. Therefore, the
classification of a developmental delay does not apply in intermediate, middle, or high schools.




Page 13                                                   GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
b
 For mild disabilities, children are typically accommodated in the general education classroom setting
and receive needed services through school resources or itinerant specialists. There are no schools
with pre-established programs for mild Autism Spectrum Disorder, Emotional Impairment, or
Intellectual Disability.
c
 For most types of moderate disabilities, students receive the majority of their instruction in the
general education classroom and may also receive supplemental instruction in a resource room.
d
 For severe disabilities, children may receive instruction in a variety of settings, including the general
education classroom and a self-contained environment.

Moreover, DOD schools provide different levels of service for each type of
disability, as indicated by the circles in the DOD directory excerpt shown
in figure 5. For example, Garmisch Elementary School in Germany has a
program to provide services in the general education classroom for
children with the mildest forms of specific learning disabilities. In contrast,
Naples Elementary School in Italy is equipped to provide individualized
instruction in a separate classroom setting for children with the most
severe types of specific learning disabilities. Schools in Ramstein,
Germany, are equipped to serve children with severe disabilities of any
type. Nonetheless, consistent with IDEA requirements, it is DOD policy
that all schools must provide special education services to all students
with such needs, regardless of the types or severity of students’ needs or
the school’s location.




Page 14                                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Military Branches
Screen Families and
Consult with DODEA
to Assign Families to
Overseas Locations,
but Ineffective
Processes May Strain
School Resources
Military Branches’        Because DOD schools in overseas communities are designated to serve
Processes to Coordinate   children with certain types and levels of disabilities, the military branches
Overseas Assignment of    and DODEA are required to coordinate the overseas assignment of
                          servicemembers with families with special needs, including all children
Servicemembers with       with IEPs. 13 All family members who are seeking a move overseas must
Families with Special     be screened by the relevant branch’s medical department for medical and
Needs Are Not Always      educational needs in addition to other factors that might inhibit travel
Effective                 overseas, such as financial problems. If the medical screening identifies
                          an EFM program-enrollable condition, the servicemember is referred for
                          EFM program enrollment.

                          Each branch implements its EFM program differently, and the branches’
                          screening and assignment coordination processes also vary somewhat.
                          Generally, through a process referred to as EFM program assignment
                          coordination, the servicemember’s personnel office coordinates with the
                          medical department to verify the availability of medical services in the
                          planned location overseas. During this process, the military branch is also
                          required to coordinate with DODEA about the educational programs
                          available. DODEA makes a recommendation based on the services
                          available at the schools, and the branch’s medical department makes a
                          recommendation about the availability of medical services. The military
                          branch then determines whether the servicemember and his or her family
                          should proceed to the planned location. Depending on the
                          recommendations of both medical and educational reviewers, the
                          servicemember may be approved for travel accompanied by family



                          13
                           Sections 5.4.3, E4.1 and E4.2 of Department of Defense Instruction 1315.19.




                          Page 15                                         GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
members, recommended to relocate to a different location, or allowed to
take an unaccompanied tour. However, according to DODEA and one
branch’s military officials, the installation’s command personnel may
override a recommendation for an unaccompanied tour and allow the
servicemember to bring the family if he or she has special skills that are
needed at an installation.

Each year, some military families with children with special educational
needs are sent to locations that are not prepared to serve their children’s
needs upon arrival. This may occur either due to a “screening failure”
(i.e., when an educational screening did not occur) or an “assignment
concern” (i.e., when the family was screened but the child was
nonetheless enrolled in a school unequipped to meet his or her needs).
DODEA records the number of screenings completed and assignment
concerns, as well as the reasons for such concerns. DODEA data show
that since school year 2008-09, there have been 93 instances when
children were educationally screened, but still arrived at a school that did
not have programs in place to meet their needs. 14 This may have
occurred because (1) the student’s needs were more severe than the
educational or medical screening indicated, (2) the military overrode
DODEA’s assignment recommendation, or (3) the servicemember was
approved for one location but was reassigned to another. Moreover,
several DODEA and school officials we interviewed confirmed that a
number of children with special educational needs who were not
screened have enrolled in their schools. For example, school officials in
Naples said that a few years ago, the school received 44 incoming
students with IEPs, but only four of those students had been
educationally screened through the EFM program. According to OSN
officials, schools are generally able to accommodate children with mild
disabilities regardless of the location, and such cases would not be
recorded as assignment concerns. However, DODEA officials overseas
also stated that when children with severe disabilities are sent to locations
that do not have appropriate pre-existing programs, even a very small
number of these cases can require substantial additional resources.
According to a Navy EFM program official at an installation we visited,



14
  According to a DODEA official, the office does not maintain data on the number of
children with special needs who should have been educationally screened. DODEA data
show that over 5,000 children were educationally screened during this same time frame.
Data reported are as of April 2012.




Page 16                                          GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                        screening and assignment coordination failures could cost the military up
                        to $100,000 per incident.


Underenrollment and     Although all four branches require EFM program enrollment for eligible
Circumvention of EFM    servicemembers, underenrollment in and circumvention of EFM programs
Procedures Hinder       were cited repeatedly as concerns during our interviews and site visits.
                        Senior OSN officials estimated that about half the families with children
Program Effectiveness   with special needs who are eligible to enroll in the EFM program have not
                        done so. They attributed underenrollment to several factors, including that
                        some families having children with very mild disabilities may think they
                        are not eligible for the program or may not be aware it exists. DODEA’s
                        Europe area and military officials at three of the eight installations
                        included in our study explained that more families are eligible to enroll in
                        EFM programs than have done so. OSN and military officials at three
                        installations also explained that families with special needs may not
                        realize they are required to enroll in EFM programs. DOD officials also
                        explained that a family might be using an off-base medical provider who
                        is not aware of the program. An EFM program official from one installation
                        added that families who rarely relocate may not understand why it is
                        important to enroll. Another EFM program official from a different
                        installation acknowledged that more work needs to be done to raise
                        awareness and enroll families in EFM programs.

                        Servicemembers may also intentionally circumvent educational screening
                        and EFM enrollment. More specifically, servicemembers sometimes avoid
                        identifying their children’s special educational needs by declining special
                        education services or inaccurately completing relevant forms, according
                        to DODEA officials in Europe and the Pacific, as well as other DOD
                        entities we interviewed. Senior OSN officials believe that a fair number of
                        families intentionally opt not to enroll in the EFM program because some
                        are concerned that enrollment may adversely affect servicemembers’
                        careers. They noted that there is a perceived stigma associated with EFM
                        enrollment among servicemembers. Some servicemembers have also
                        been known to travel with their families against recommendation and
                        once on base, request approval from the installation leadership for the
                        family to stay, according to DODEA and military officials at one
                        installation. In seven of our focus groups, parents said they felt that
                        enrolling in EFM would hurt their chances of being assigned to a position
                        or location they desire. However, DOD policy states that servicemembers
                        with children with special educational needs should be assigned to
                        appropriate locations overseas consistent with the needs of the military
                        and the career of the servicemember. According to senior OSN and


                        Page 17                                   GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
military officials at two installations, EFM enrollment does not limit
servicemembers’ career opportunities. They noted that servicemembers
can accept an unaccompanied tour to the desired location or seek a
different assignment that would better support the family’s needs if the
initially planned location is not suitable.

EFM programs may not be as effective as they could be due to
inconsistent policy enforcement regarding enrollment. DOD policy
provides that a servicemember who fails or refuses to provide the
information required for overseas screening and assignment or knowingly
provides false information may be subject to disciplinary action and
administrative sanctions, including denial of command sponsorship. 15
However, OSN and military officials we spoke to at two installations
indicated that installation commanders rarely take such disciplinary
actions.

Medical screening failures may also contribute to underenrollment in EFM
programs. More specifically, some special educational needs are
identified when families complete medical screenings for overseas
assignments. However, officials from OSN and a military branch
explained that sometimes these needs are not identified during
screenings, resulting in families not being enrolled in EFM programs. For
example, if a servicemember’s child is diagnosed with autism by a civilian
provider, the military’s overseas screening personnel may not be aware of
it—since, according to officials from this branch and DODEA, they only
have access to records from military hospitals or treatment facilities—
unless families disclose this information. Senior DOD officials stated that
they believe such failures are uncommon and have minimal impact on
EFM program enrollment.

In addition, some branches’ EFM programs face administrative
challenges that may contribute to underenrollment of families with special
needs. A military official from one installation observed that EFM program
staff often do not complete the EFM program paperwork or they take a
significant amount of time to do so because other duties take priority. For
example, officials from two installations said that ideally enrollment should
occur within 4 to 6 weeks, but can sometimes take several months for the
process to be completed. Moreover, officials at two installations from one



15
 Section E5.2.3 of Department of Defense Instruction 1315.19.




Page 18                                         GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                         military branch told us that enrollment forms were not always forwarded to
                         the receiving installation for review.


Failures to Screen and   When screening and assignment processes are ineffective, students may
Coordinate Assignments   arrive at schools that are not immediately equipped to meet their needs.
May Strain School        Officials at some schools we visited told us it can be difficult to
                         accommodate students whose needs they are not structured to serve.
Resources                DODEA district and area office officials concurred, and noted that this is
                         one of the most significant challenges that schools overseas face. To
                         meet the needs of students, schools may need to reallocate or increase
                         staff and other resources, which can be difficult with limited resources.

                         According to a senior DODEA official, the local district or area
                         administrative offices will first attempt to shift existing resources to meet
                         the needs of students. Typically, a school might bus a student to another
                         location or hire a paraprofessional. However, if necessary, DODEA will
                         purchase new equipment or hire a teacher, a process that can be lengthy
                         in some instances. For example, during our review of DODEA’s screening
                         and assignment concern database, we found one case in which a school
                         overseas that did not have pre-existing programs in place for students
                         with severe cognitive disabilities received such a student. The student’s
                         family had not gone through EFM program screening before the
                         servicemember’s authorization to travel was approved. Once the child’s
                         educational records were reviewed, travel was not recommended for the
                         family, but the family arrived nonetheless. As a result, the school had to
                         expend additional resources to meet the student’s needs.

                         In contrast to military personnel, civilian families are not required to enroll
                         in EFM programs or to undergo medical screenings prior to relocating
                         overseas. According to DOD officials, under federal law 16 human
                         resource offices are prohibited from asking civilian employees whether
                         their family members have certain medical conditions or other special
                         needs and cannot bar employment or relocation to overseas installations
                         based on such factors. However, according to DOD policy, DOD human
                         resource offices are responsible for providing information to civilian
                         employees regarding the educational and medical services available at


                         16
                           The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (Pub. L. No. 110-233, 122 Stat. 881)
                         prohibits employers from requesting genetic information, including family medical history,
                         from their employees.




                         Page 19                                            GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                           overseas installations, so that the civilian employee or selectee may
                           make an informed choice regarding whether to accept the overseas
                           position. DOD human resource offices are also required to provide a point
                           of contact to answer applicants’ questions.

                           Officials from two schools we visited also said that because civilian
                           families do not undergo any systematic screening before transferring
                           overseas, they tend to have the most severe needs. Senior DOD officials,
                           however, told us they do not maintain data on whether civilian families
                           have more severe needs than active duty families. A school official at an
                           installation in Europe told us that the majority of students with severe
                           special needs enrolled in schools on that installation are civilians, and that
                           military dependents with similar needs would have been identified and
                           likely prevented from transferring there during the screening and
                           assignment process. According to data provided by DOD, as of January
                           2012, there were approximately 1,100 children with special needs from
                           civilian families enrolled in DODEA schools.



Families Generally
Satisfied with Special
Education Services,
but Face Challenges
Obtaining Them
Limited Educational and    Families in 21 out of the 22 focus groups we held told us they were
Medical Specialists in     generally satisfied with the special education services their children
Some Locations Pose        received in DOD schools once they received them. Further, participants in
                           10 focus groups said that special education services in DOD schools
Challenges for Families,   were superior to those in the non-DOD schools their children had
and Schools Struggle to    attended. In fact, one focus group participant in Germany was so pleased
Hire and Retain Staff      with the special education services her children had received at DOD
                           schools that she wanted to remain on the installation for several
                           additional years so her children could graduate from them.

                           Despite families’ general satisfaction with services once their children
                           received them, participants in 16 out of 22 focus groups we held reported
                           facing challenges obtaining these services due to the limited availability of
                           related service providers available on military installations, particularly
                           overseas. More specifically, participants in seven focus groups said they


                           Page 20                                    GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
believe that there are shortages of occupational therapists or physical
therapists at certain schools. For example, a parent in one focus group
believed her child was not receiving necessary services as often as she
felt was warranted. In the 2008-09 school year, DODEA issued 285
reports of unavailability of medically related services for military
dependents in the Pacific region due to the number of vacancies at Navy
EDIS clinics and delays in filling positions. 17 According to these reports,
unavailable services included diagnostic evaluations, social work
services, as well as occupational and physical therapy. Since 2009, many
of these cases have been resolved. 18 In school years 2009-10 and 2011-
12, there were 41 reports of unavailability of medically related services.

In addition, participants in six of our focus groups expressed concern with
perceived shortages of paraprofessionals to assist special education
teachers, and participants in four focus groups also stated that they
believed there was high turnover among them. Officials from three
schools we spoke with and DODEA officials from one district indicated
that there are shortages of paraprofessionals or high turnover among
them. The high turnover rate among paraprofessionals can be especially
disruptive for children with special needs, who thrive on consistency,
according to parents in three of our focus groups.

Participants in seven focus groups told us it has been difficult for them to
obtain medical services for their children. Since IEPs require medical
diagnoses for some conditions, limited medical services can directly affect
students’ educational progress. According to DODEA guidelines, certain
impairments require medical reports from appropriate specialists, which
can include developmental pediatricians, psychologists, autism clinicians,
and audiologists, among others. Some school, DODEA, and EFM
program officials we met with confirmed that it can be difficult for families
to obtain medical services on base. For example, while DOD officials told
us that military families have greater access to developmental



17
  Reports of unavailability of medically related services are filed when a DOD school
determines that children with disabilities have unmet medical needs.
18
  According to DODEA’s Annual Compliance Report for 2009, several of the cases were
resolved and make-up services were provided to many students in the summer of 2009. In
addition, DODEA’s Annual Compliance Report for 2010 states that the number of reports
on unavailability of medically related services was substantially reduced in the 2009-10
school year as a result of ongoing oversight and corrective actions implemented by the
Navy.




Page 21                                            GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
pediatricians than civilians, officials at a domestic school we visited said
that waiting lists for developmental pediatricians at the military medical
treatment facilities are so long that families frequently seek care from
private providers. Further, a senior military official at another domestic
installation told us that the local military treatment facility does not have a
permanent developmental psychologist and as a result, some families
have to wait almost 2 months for appointments. In addition, participants in
five focus groups told us it has been difficult for them to obtain a particular
type of autism therapy for their children, especially overseas. For
example, one focus group participant in Germany told us there is a long
waiting list to receive Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy in
Germany. 19 While the military does not provide ABA therapy in military
treatment facilities, according to DOD officials, many families have
become accustomed to receiving this service in the United States. Some
DODEA area and school officials we spoke with acknowledged a
shortage of autism specialists overseas.

Moreover, officials from many DOD schools we visited said it is difficult to
fill and retain key positions, including special education teachers,
paraprofessionals, and specialists. When a school needs additional staff
to fill vacant teacher or specialist positions, candidates are first recruited
from the local area. If they cannot be recruited locally, candidates are
hired from the United States through a process that can take several
months. Hiring delays may create staffing challenges for schools, and
they may need to rely on substitutes or reallocate existing staff. For
example, officials from one overseas school said that they began the
school year with long-term substitutes in special education classrooms
because teachers were not yet in place. In addition, officials from the
same school stated that although the school began the process of filling a
projected speech and language therapist vacancy in April 2011, the
position was not filled until late September of that year, several weeks
after the school year had begun. As a result, school officials stated they
had to divide the workload among existing staff and some students
received fewer services in the meantime. Officials from two additional
schools noted their speech and language therapists’ caseloads exceeded
the DODEA standard of 30 to 50 students. Officials from one of these
schools said it is unclear when they will receive another speech and



19
  Applied Behavioral Analysis therapy involves the use of certain principles and
techniques to bring about changes in behavior.




Page 22                                            GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                            language therapist to reduce their large caseloads. DODEA area officials
                            also noted the difficulties in hiring speech and language therapists and
                            other special education staff. Overall, parents in seven focus groups
                            stated that they believed their children did not always receive all the
                            speech and language therapy they needed, and some of these parents
                            felt that there were shortages of these therapists. Likewise, DODEA
                            district officials in Europe and a few school officials we spoke with
                            overseas also acknowledged that hiring and retaining special education
                            paraprofessionals can be difficult, citing low pay and the fact that the
                            hiring pool—typically spouses from the local community—is a small and
                            highly mobile population.


Families Lack Information   The family support components of each of the military branches’ EFM
about Obtaining Services    programs are responsible for supporting military families with special
                            needs by providing information and referral and nonclinical case
                            management services. For example, EFM case managers at military
                            installations may identify families’ needs, provide relevant information and
                            referrals, assist families in accessing resources, and coordinate among
                            various resources and services. EFM family support services are
                            available to all military families with special needs, including those with
                            children with special educational needs. However, the support military
                            branches offer through their EFM programs vary. For example, an EFM
                            program official at an Army installation in Germany told us that every
                            incoming family is provided informational materials, including those on
                            special education, and a meeting with a case manager is scheduled to
                            discuss the family’s needs. In contrast, an EFM program official at a Navy
                            installation in Italy said that families are expected to reach out to EFM
                            family support staff to obtain information when they arrive.

                            School Liaison Officers and DODEA may also provide some information
                            to families. School Liaison Officers generally support military leadership in
                            coordinating with and advising parents of school-aged children on all
                            educational issues. According to a senior DODEA official, DODEA also
                            provides families information on special education services and
                            processes, including documents on parental rights and responsibilities
                            and a special education handbook.

                            Despite the existing support available and their general satisfaction with
                            services once receiving them, families in 16 of our 22 focus groups said
                            they felt the information they received about obtaining services was
                            insufficient for their needs. Participants in four focus groups noted they
                            faced challenges navigating DOD’s complex system in order to obtain


                            Page 23                                    GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
special education and medical services. Seventy of the 92 active duty
servicemembers and spouses who attended our focus groups reported
having one or more children enrolled in their respective branch’s EFM
program. While families in three of our focus groups reported they were
satisfied with their respective branches’ EFM programs, parents in 21of
the 22 focus groups told us that the program played little to no role in
helping them learn about or access special education and medical
services. Further, while each of the military branches’ EFM programs
have case managers to assist military families in learning about and
obtaining special education and medical services for their children,
families in seven of our focus groups told us they lacked a central point of
contact to assist them in doing so. As a result, a participant in one focus
group reported feeling “lost” when trying to learn about and access such
services, while another noted feeling “frustrated.” Families in three of our
focus groups indicated they had to be proactive and obtain information on
their own, while participants in three focus groups also stated they
primarily received information from other families with children with
disabilities. In addition, participants in three focus groups were not aware
that the EFM program provided support in learning about or accessing
services. Focus group participants at one installation overseas said they
did not receive any information from EFM programs regarding what types
of special education services and specialists were available on base
before they relocated. Officials at two schools we visited, as well as
military officials at one installation, confirmed that families sometimes face
challenges obtaining information and navigating the system for accessing
special education and medical services.

At the DOD headquarters level, OSN has taken some steps to provide
better information to families and identify their concerns, including
developing outreach and marketing materials and updating website
information on EFM programs for families. For example, OSN has
provided resources to help strengthen education and awareness in the
Army EFM program community. Further, OSN, in collaboration with the
military branches, is in the process of developing online learning modules,
including an overview of the EFM program. OSN has also developed a
reference guide for EFM program case managers to help them access
and network with community support systems. However, the extent to
which these efforts are helping families obtain information and access
services for their children remains unclear.




Page 24                                    GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
DOD Is Taking Steps
to Improve EFM
Programs, but Limited
Oversight Hinders Its
Ability to Assess and
Ensure Program
Effectiveness
DOD Has Taken Recent    OSN and the military branches are taking actions to improve assignment
Steps to Improve        coordination processes for military families with special needs. These
Screening Processes     efforts include, but are not limited to, families with children with disabilities
                        who require special education services. DOD provided $5 million in fiscal
                        year 2010 and $10 million in fiscal year 2011 to the military branches,
                        based on their needs, to hire and train an additional 120 EFM program
                        family support personnel to assist military families with identifying and
                        accessing programs and services. The military branches also hired staff
                        or identified a point of contact at all installations to support military
                        families with special needs and trained all EFM program family support
                        staff. As of fiscal year 2012, the branches allocated funding to maintain
                        these additional staff.

                        Since its establishment in late 2010, OSN has begun several initiatives to
                        improve EFM programs, including revising DOD policy to establish
                        minimum requirements for the three components of the program. OSN is
                        revising the policy in response to the 2010 NDAA in order to reflect
                        requirements included in the legislation. Under the new policy, currently in
                        draft, each military branch will be expected to revise and implement
                        branch-specific guidance. According to a senior OSN official, the draft
                        policy will include reporting requirements for the branches, such as the
                        number of EFM families identified and screened and the number of
                        assignment concerns. OSN officials indicated the draft policy revisions
                        are currently undergoing internal review and could take a year or more to
                        be finalized. OSN is also working with the Council on Accreditation to
                        develop performance goals for the family support component of the EFM




                        Page 25                                      GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                           programs. 20 According to agency officials, this effort is based on the
                           requirements set forth in the 2010 NDAA. These performance goals are
                           intended to address the resource and referral aspects of family support
                           services, among other things.

                           OSN is also undertaking another initiative, working with a contractor to
                           conduct an analysis of each branch’s current EFM program databases
                           and case management systems. According to officials, this analysis is a
                           first step in a long-term project to determine the feasibility of developing a
                           joint database that would network all three components of the EFM
                           program. If a joint database is developed, OSN officials noted that a
                           range of relevant program officials—including DODEA staff, medical
                           providers, and EFM case managers—would have access to components
                           of the joint database to obtain information necessary to assist families
                           with special needs. As of May 2012, the first phase of the analysis is
                           complete and provides information on all the information sources and
                           databases for each of the military branches’ EFM programs, according to
                           a senior OSN official. As a next step, OSN expects to develop common
                           definitions and explore ways to merge or network existing databases,
                           which officials anticipate will be completed by October 2013. However, an
                           OSN official stated that developing a joint database will require significant
                           buy-in from each military branch. As such, this process is anticipated to
                           take several years, according to officials.


Office of Special Needs’   Although OSN was established to enhance and monitor the military
Oversight of Screening     branches’ support for military families with special needs, it lacks a strong
Processes and Family       oversight role and enforcement authority. Because the military branches
                           are responsible for implementing and enforcing EFM program
Support Programs Is        requirements, OSN currently has limited authority to enforce these
Limited                    requirements if a military branch does not follow or effectively implement
                           them. According to DOD policy, each military branch is required to
                           maintain records and report annually to the Deputy Under Secretary of
                           Defense for Military Community and Family Policy on the current number


                           20
                             The Council on Accreditation is an international, independent, not-for-profit, child- and
                           family-service and behavioral healthcare accrediting organization. It was founded in 1977
                           by the Child Welfare League of America and Family Service America (now the Alliance for
                           Children and Families). Originally known as an accrediting body for family and children’s
                           agencies, the Council on Accreditation currently accredits over 45 different service areas.
                           Among the service areas are substance abuse treatment, adult day care, services for the
                           homeless, foster care, and inter-country adoption.




                           Page 26                                            GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
of family members identified with special needs and the effectiveness of
its processes for implementing EFM program guidance. 21 However,
officials from at least one branch’s EFM program acknowledged they had
not provided the required reports, and OSN is limited in the extent to
which it can compel them to do so. DOD officials noted that while OSN
does not have direct enforcement authority over the branches’ EFM
programs, high-level responsibility for ensuring compliance with program
requirements rests with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel
and Readiness. For example OSN, through the Under Secretary of
Defense of Personnel and Readiness, may submit a report to DODEA or
the secretaries of the military branches citing noncompliance. However,
only the branches have the ability to take corrective action based on such
letters. Further, some DOD officials expressed concern about the lack of
military leadership’s sustained attention and commitment to EFM
programs.

DOD also currently lacks comprehensive agencywide benchmarks and
performance goals with which to measure the effectiveness of the
branches’ EFM programs. As noted previously, OSN is in the process of
developing performance goals for the family support function of the EFM
program in response to requirements set forth in the 2010 NDAA.
However, OSN does not currently have benchmarks and performance
goals for the two other components of the program—
identification/enrollment and assignment coordination. Our prior work has
noted that establishing performance goals and measuring progress is a
key element of effective oversight. 22 At least one military branch has
included performance goals and standards in its EFM program policy.
Specifically, the Air Force’s EFM program instruction includes targets and
benchmarks for relocations due to assignment concerns. For example,
according to these benchmarks, less than 0.5 percent of families who
relocate each calendar year should be relocated again as the result of
unavailable educational or medical services at the initial location. Another
Air Force target stipulates that 5 percent or less of EFM program
reassignments in each calendar year will be due to screening failures.


21
 DOD Instruction 1315.19(5.4.15) and DOD Instruction 1315.19(E5.1.3).
22
  See, for example GAO, Preventing Sexual Harassment: DOD Needs Greater
Leadership Commitment and an Oversight Framework, GAO-11-809 (Washington, D.C.:
Sept. 21, 2011) and Military Personnel: DOD’s and the Coast Guard’s Sexual Assault
Prevention and Response Programs Face Implementation and Oversight Challenges,
GAO-08-924 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 29, 2008).




Page 27                                        GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Because DOD currently lacks performance goals and benchmarks, it
cannot assess the effectiveness of the branches’ EFM programs and
ensure that improvements are made when needed. Without overall
performance information to proactively identify emerging problem areas,
some of the branches have only been able to react to specific problems
after they have arisen. For example, entities within the Air Force and
Navy have conducted internal audits or investigations in response to
concerns regarding special education services and EFM programs. In
December 2009, the Inspector General of the Air Force initiated an
investigation of the Air Force’s EFM program in response to complaints
from a number of Air Force families with special needs. 23 The
investigation substantiated many of the complaints from families,
including allegations that installations did not follow required assignment
coordination procedures. As of June 2012, the Air Force has not
determined its plans to respond to the investigation findings. Similarly, in
April 2009, the Naval Audit Service initiated an audit of the Marine Corps’
EFM program. 24 While this audit focused on children’s access to special
education services in public schools in the United States, the Naval Audit
Service identified areas for improvement in the Marine Corps’ oversight
and provision of EFM program services. The Marine Corps concurred
with the audit’s recommendations. As of June 2012, Marine Corps
officials stated that most of the audit’s recommendations have been
addressed. They added that the remaining open recommendations are
related to ongoing efforts currently being implemented, such as those
intended to improve case manager training processes. Finally, in April
2010, the Naval Audit Service initiated an audit of the Navy’s EDIS
program to verify that the program effectively provides special education
services to school-aged children overseas. 25 The audit focused on
services for school-aged children enrolled in the Navy’s EDIS program in
the Mediterranean area. It found that there was inadequate centralized
oversight over local programs as well as inadequate educational
screening for families being assigned to overseas locations. The Navy
Bureau of Medicine and Surgery concurred with the audit’s



23
 Inspector General of the Air Force: Report of Investigation (ROI) - Category 1,
December 2, 2009 – January 12, 2010.
24
  Naval Audit Service: Marine Corps Exceptional Family Member Program, January 14,
2011.
25
  Naval Audit Service: Department of the Navy Educational and Developmental
Intervention Services, March 29, 2012.




Page 28                                           GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
              recommendations and agreed to take actions to address them with a
              target completion date of October 2012.


              In 2011, the Administration made the care and support of military families
Conclusions   a top national security policy priority. In the 2011 White House report, the
              heads of 16 executive branch agencies, including the Secretary of
              Defense, committed to making the well-being of military families one of
              their highest priorities and to improve their access to services and
              support. Further, the Administration emphasized the importance of
              ensuring that military children are provided a quality education. Due to
              their frequent relocations, accessing educational services may be
              particularly difficult for military families—especially for those with children
              with special educational needs. DODEA and the military branches provide
              special education services to eligible families thorough a complex system
              that varies by location. While families in our focus groups were generally
              satisfied once their children received special education services, they
              faced challenges obtaining these services, in part due to the limited
              availability of medical and related service providers at overseas
              installations. In addition, families may lack sufficient information about
              accessing special education and related medical services. The
              challenges families and schools face in obtaining and providing special
              education services are not unique to DOD schools. However, the
              complexity of DOD’s system for providing services—especially
              overseas—along with the high mobility of military families is unique.
              Consequently, effective overseas assignment and family support
              processes are essential for meeting the needs of families with children
              with special needs. Impediments to effective assignment coordination,
              such as ineffective screening processes, can result in families being
              assigned to overseas installations that are unable to readily meet their
              children’s educational and medical needs. As such, it is important that the
              branches’ screening and assignment processes for children with special
              needs are consistently conducted in a thorough manner.

              OSN has recently taken some steps to enhance the military branches’
              EFM programs. However, it is unclear when some of these efforts will be
              completed or if they will be effectively implemented. While OSN was
              established in part to monitor the military branches’ support for families
              with special needs, it has limited enforcement authority over the
              branches’ EFM programs. Specifically, it is limited in the extent to which it
              can compel the branches to comply with DOD or service-level program
              requirements, and it has no direct means by which to hold them
              accountable if they fail to do so. As such, it is important that OSN develop


              Page 29                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                      processes to strengthen its oversight of the branches’ EFM programs to
                      ensure that they are operating effectively.

                      Moreover, DOD currently lacks uniform performance goals and
                      benchmarks for all aspects of the EFM program. Because OSN is
                      charged with monitoring EFM programs and is developing benchmarks
                      and performance goals for the family support component of the program,
                      it is well positioned to develop them for the other two components of the
                      program—identification/enrollment and assignment coordination. Such an
                      effort would give DOD the information it needs to determine whether the
                      branches are complying with program policies and requirements. Without
                      clear benchmarks and performance goals, DOD is limited in the extent to
                      which it can determine the effectiveness of the branches’ EFM programs
                      and improve these programs for families with special needs. As a result,
                      families may continue to be assigned to installations that cannot readily
                      meet their children’s special educational and medical needs.


                      Based on our review, we are making three recommendations.
Recommendations for
Executive Action      To ensure that military families are assigned to overseas installations that
                      can readily meet their children’s special educational and medical needs,
                      we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the secretaries of
                      each branch to ensure that all military dependent children of school age
                      are medically and educationally screened in accordance with each
                      branch’s policies and that all required educational screening forms are
                      forwarded to DODEA for educational assignment recommendations prior
                      to families’ relocations.

                      To improve oversight of the military branches’ programs for families with
                      special needs, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct OSN
                      to establish uniform benchmarks and performance goals for the
                      identification/enrollment and assignment coordination components of the
                      military branches’ EFM programs. These goals can be used to determine
                      whether EFM programs are achieving desired outcomes across DOD and
                      identify areas for improvement. For example, such performance goals
                      could include specific targets and benchmarks for reducing screening
                      failures over time and reassigning families who have been sent to
                      locations that are unable to meet their children’s educational or medical
                      needs.

                      To strengthen OSN’s oversight over the military branches’ EFM
                      programs, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct OSN to


                      Page 30                                   GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                     develop and implement a process to assess the branches’ compliance
                     with DOD-level EFM program policies and requirements, and to identify
                     and report any issues related to noncompliance to senior leadership for
                     corrective action. For example, OSN could consider conducting periodic,
                     unannounced site visits to select military installations on a periodic basis
                     to monitor implementation of their EFM programs.


                     We provided a draft of this report to the Department of Defense (DOD) for
Agency Comments      review and comment. DOD’s comments are reproduced in appendix III.
and Our Evaluation   DOD also provided technical comments that we incorporated in the report
                     as appropriate.

                     DOD concurred with our recommendation that all school-age military
                     dependent children be medically and educationally screened and that all
                     screening forms be forwarded to DODEA for placement
                     recommendations before families relocate. DOD noted that it has a policy
                     that requires the military branches to identify and refer school-age
                     children with special educational needs to the appropriate DODEA
                     reviewer for educational placement recommendations.

                     DOD partially concurred with our recommendation to direct OSN to
                     establish uniform benchmarks and performance goals for two elements of
                     the branches’ EFM programs—the identification/enrollment and
                     assignment coordination components. In its comments, DOD said it has
                     completed the first year of an analysis of the branches’ EFM programs
                     that will provide uniform benchmarks and performance goals for these
                     components of the program. In a subsequent discussion with DOD to
                     clarify their written comments, a senior official confirmed that these
                     benchmarks and performance goals are currently not in place and are still
                     in the process of being developed. While there is no specific deadline for
                     their completion, DOD anticipates that they will be finalized in mid-2013.
                     Since the primary intent of this effort is to develop a joint database that
                     will network all three components of the EFM program, it is unclear
                     whether any benchmarks and goals resulting from the analysis will
                     include all the elements necessary for effective oversight of the programs.

                     DOD partially concurred with our recommendation to provide OSN with
                     the authority to require the branches to comply with DOD and branch-
                     level EFM program policies and requirements. DOD said its current
                     policies assign responsibility for ensuring compliance to senior leadership
                     within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In addition, DOD said the
                     responsibility for ensuring the branches’ compliance with its forthcoming


                     Page 31                                    GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
revised policy on EFM program compliance will be assigned to the
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness and Force Management to
whom OSN will report any issues regarding noncompliance. When this
occurs, DOD said the Assistant Secretary will direct the branches to take
corrective action. We revised our report to clarify that high-level
responsibility for ensuring the branches’ compliance with EFM program
requirements rests with the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel
and Readiness. We also modified our recommendation to direct DOD to
require OSN to develop and implement a process to assess the branches’
compliance with EFM program policies and requirements and to report
any issues related to noncompliance to senior leadership for corrective
action. We believe this would allow OSN to better evaluate the extent to
which the branches are complying with the revised policy.

In overall comments on our report, DOD said that despite some families’
comments in our focus groups that their children lacked services such as
speech and language therapy, its monitoring reports over the past 10
years have indicated no lack of services due to an inadequate number of
special education teachers or specialists. In our report, we noted that
families’ comments about challenges obtaining special education services
were generally corroborated by DODEA administrative offices and
individual schools overseas. For example, officials from DOD schools we
visited told us they have difficulties filling and retaining key positions, such
as special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and specialists. In
addition, some officials said that caseloads for certain special education
service providers can exceed accepted standards.

In addition, DOD said the perspectives obtained from families during our
focus groups are presented as facts in our report, and noted that caution
must be exercised when drawing conclusions about the accessibility of
services based on a sample of individual opinions. In our report, we
acknowledged that our focus groups cannot be generalized to all parents
of children with special needs, nor are they representative of the entire
population of parents. Because common responses and recurring themes
across focus groups provide some degree of validation that experiences
are not limited to specific individuals, we identified throughout the report
the number of focus groups where particular perspectives were
discussed. In addition, we did not rely entirely on focus groups for
evidence in the report, but rather used several different methods to
support our conclusions. For example, we interviewed officials from
DODEA administrative offices, military branches, and individual schools
who corroborated many themes that emerged during our focus groups.



Page 32                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
committees, the Secretary of Defense, and other interested parties. The
report also is available at no charge on the GAO website at
http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff members have any questions about this report, please
contact me at (202) 512-7215 or scottg@gao.gov. Contact points for our
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made major contributions to
this report are listed in appendix IV.




George A. Scott
Director, Education, Workforce,
   and Income Security Issues




Page 33                                  GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology
                             Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




                             The objectives of this report were to determine (1) how the Department of
                             Defense (DOD) provides special education services, and any associated
                             challenges for families and schools; (2) how DOD entities coordinate to
                             assign families to overseas locations, and how schools might be affected;
                             (3) what challenges, if any, families face in obtaining DOD services for
                             their children with special educational needs and accessing related
                             information; and (4) what steps, if any, DOD is taking to enhance
                             screening and overseas assignment for families with children with special
                             educational needs.


Site Visits to Selected      In order to obtain information on how DOD schools provide special
Military Installations and   education services, and to identify challenges families face in obtaining
DOD Schools                  these services and schools face in providing them, we conducted site
                             visits to five military installations in Europe and in two states. During these
                             site visits, we visited nine schools on four military installations in
                             Germany, and two schools on a military installation in Italy. Domestically,
                             we also visited three schools on an installation in North Carolina and two
                             schools on an installation in South Carolina. We also held telephone
                             interviews with school and other officials from a military installation in
                             Japan. (See table 1 for more information on the installations and schools
                             we visited.) During our school visits we conducted 22 focus groups with
                             parents of children with special education needs enrolled in these
                             schools. We also interviewed school officials, including principals,
                             teachers, and specialists, at 15 of the 17 schools included in our study to
                             learn about the challenges schools face in providing special education
                             services, and the strategies they employ to respond to those challenges.
                             We also toured schools and obtained documents. In addition, we
                             interviewed Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) area and
                             district officials, and officials from the Exceptional Family Member (EFM)
                             program and the Educational and Developmental Intervention Services
                             (EDIS) programs on each of the installations we visited. Site visit
                             locations were selected to obtain ranges in the number of students with
                             special education needs enrolled in DOD schools in particular districts
                             and the severity of needs the schools overseas were equipped to serve.
                             We also strove to achieve variation in urban and remote areas, as well as
                             the four armed service branches. In addition, we considered
                             recommendations from DODEA and subject matter experts in our
                             selection of site visit locations.




                             Page 34                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                                           Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




Table 1: Site Visit Installation and School Selection

Selected district                   Selected military installation                             Number and type of school
South Carolina/Fort Stewart/Cuba    Marine Corps/Navy Tri-Command (South Carolina)             1 Elementary School
                                                                                               1 Elementary/Middle School
North Carolina                      Fort Bragg (Army) (North Carolina)                         2 Elementary Schools
                                                                                               1 Intermediate School
Mediterranean                       Naval Support Activity Naples (Italy)                      1 Elementary School
                                                                                               1 Middle/High School
Kaiserslautern                      Ramstein Air Base (Germany)                                1 Elementary School
                                                                                               1 Intermediate School
                                    Spangdahlem Air Base/Eifel community (Germany)             2 Elementary Schools


                                    U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern (Germany)                1 Elementary School
                                                                                               1 Elementary/Middle School
                                                                                               1 Middle School
                                                                                               1 High School
                                    U.S. Army Garrison Baumholder (Germany)                    1 Elementary School
Japan (by video teleconference)     Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka (Naval Base, Japan)    1 Elementary School
                                           Source: GAO.




Focus Groups with Parents                  We conducted 22 focus groups at all of the schools included in our study,
of Children with Special                   including 17 at overseas locations and five at domestic locations,
Education Needs Enrolled                   covering over 100 service members, their spouses, and DOD civilians
                                           across all four branches of the military, in order to obtain the views of
in DOD Schools                             parents regarding the challenges they face in learning about and
                                           obtaining special education services for their children with special needs.
                                           One of our overseas focus groups was conducted via video
                                           teleconference, rather than in person, to mitigate travel costs. We are
                                           confident that using this method did not substantially impact our findings.
                                           For each location, all parents of children with an individualized education
                                           program (IEP) were invited to participate. A list of sites we spoke with can
                                           be found in table 1.

                                           A focus group protocol was developed to help the moderator gather
                                           information from these parents about their experiences with special
                                           education services at DODEA schools. The protocol contained questions
                                           about the types of services their children received, degree of satisfaction
                                           with those services, experiences with the Exceptional Family Member
                                           (EFM) program and with the screening process for obtaining special
                                           education services, and a comparison to services provided at other


                                           Page 35                                       GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                         Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




                         locations. In addition, it included questions on any complaints that may
                         have been communicated to DODEA, and the resolution of those
                         complaints. Notes were taken by at least one, but usually multiple, GAO
                         note-takers. These notes were integrated into transcripts of the focus
                         groups, which were then organized by question. For each question, a
                         GAO analyst reviewed notes from all the focus groups to identify themes
                         across the different groups, in order to provide insights into the range of
                         concerns and support for these topics. While the results of these focus
                         groups cannot be generalized to all parents of children with special
                         needs, nor are they representative of the population of parents, common
                         responses across groups and recurring themes provide some degree of
                         validation. Because of these limitations, our study was supported by
                         several methodologies, of which the focus groups were one part, to
                         support our conclusions.


Interviews with Agency   To address all of the report’s objectives, we interviewed relevant officials
Officials and Other      from DODEA, the Office of Special Needs, and the military services’ EFM
Organizations            program headquarters offices. We also met with individual subject matter
                         experts and representatives from the National Council on Disability and
                         the Specialized Training of Military Parents, an organization focused on
                         providing support and advice to military families with special needs. In
                         addition, we reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations. We also
                         reviewed agency documents and program guidance, such as DODEA’s
                         directory of special education services in overseas communities,
                         DODEA’s special education procedural guide, service-level EFM program
                         instructions, and DOD instructions for the provision of special education
                         and related services. We also reviewed prior GAO reports on military
                         dependents and elementary and secondary education.


Data Collection and      To obtain information about the number and characteristics of children
Analysis                 with special needs who attend DOD schools, we reviewed data from
                         DODEA’s Excent and Aspen databases, including enrollment by disability
                         type, location, and military branch or other governmental affiliation, as of
                         January 2012. As part of our data request, we asked questions about the
                         reliability of the data, such as whether there are audits of the data or
                         routine quality control procedures in place. We found limitations with the
                         enrollment data resulting from the transition between systems, but
                         determined that the data provided by DOD were sufficiently reliable to
                         accurately provide an approximation of enrollment figures as of January
                         2012. We also examined data from DODEA’s Screening and Assignment
                         Concerns database to determine the number of screenings and


                         Page 36                                   GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Appendix I: Scope and Methodology




assignment concerns reported between 2005 and 2012, as well as the
nature of the assignment concerns from the most recent school year. We
tested the screening and assignment concerns database for errors and
found the data to be sufficiently reliable for the purposes of reporting the
number of screenings and the number and nature of assignment
concerns.




Page 37                                    GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Appendix II: DODEA Categories and
                                Appendix II: DODEA Categories and
                                Definitions of Disabilities



Definitions of Disabilities

1. Physical Impairments         Students whose educational performance is adversely affected by a
                                physical impairment that requires environmental and/or academic
                                modifications including, but not limited to, the following: visually impaired,
                                hearing impaired, orthopedically impaired, and other health impaired.

Autism Spectrum Disorder        This term includes Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Asperger’s
                                syndrome, as well as the diagnosis of autism. It is a developmental
                                disability significantly affecting verbal and nonverbal communication and
                                social interaction, generally evident before age 3 that adversely affects
                                educational performance. The term does not include students with
                                characteristics of the disability “serious emotional disturbance.”

Deaf                            A hearing loss or deficit so severe that the student is impaired in
                                processing linguistic information through hearing, with or without
                                amplification, to the extent that his or her educational performance is
                                adversely affected.

Deaf-Blindness                  Concomitant hearing and visual impairments. This disability causes such
                                severe communication, developmental, and educational problems that
                                they cannot be accommodated in special education programs solely for
                                students with deafness or students with blindness.

Hearing Impairment              An impairment in hearing, whether permanent or fluctuating that
                                adversely affects a student’s educational performance, but is not included
                                under the definition of deafness.

Other Health Impairment (OHI)   Though not exhaustive, OHI may include limited strength, vitality, or
                                alertness due to chronic or acute health problems that adversely affect a
                                student’s educational performance, including but not limited to heart
                                condition, tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, nephritis, asthma, sickle cell
                                anemia, hemophilia, epilepsy, lead poisoning, leukemia, diabetes or
                                attention deficit disorder with or without hyperactivity.

Orthopedic Impairment           A severe physical impairment that adversely affects a student’s
                                educational performance. The term includes congenital impairments,
                                impairments caused by disease (e.g., poliomyelitis, bone tuberculosis,
                                etc.), and impairments from other causes such as cerebral palsy,
                                amputations, and fractures or burns causing contractures.

Traumatic Brain Injury          An acquired injury to the brain caused by an external physical force,
                                resulting in total or partial functional disability or psychosocial impairment,
                                or both, that adversely affects a student’s educational performance. The
                                term applies to open or closed head injuries resulting in impairments in


                                Page 38                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                               Appendix II: DODEA Categories and
                               Definitions of Disabilities




                               one or more areas, such as cognition, language, memory, attention,
                               reasoning, abstract thinking, judgment, or problem-solving; sensory,
                               perceptual, and motor abilities; psychosocial behavior; physical functions;
                               information processing, and speech. The term does not apply to brain
                               injuries that are congenital or degenerative, or brain injuries induced by
                               birth trauma.

Visual Impairment, including   Impairment in vision that, even with correction, adversely affects a
Blindness                      student’s educational performance. The term includes both partial sight
                               and blindness.


2. Emotional Impairments       A condition that has been confirmed by clinical evaluation and diagnosis
                               and that, over a long period of time and to a marked degree, adversely
                               affects educational performance and that exhibits one or more of the
                               following characteristics:

                                   1. An inability to learn that cannot be explained by intellectual,
                                      sensory, or health factors.

                                   1. An inability to build or maintain satisfactory interpersonal
                                      relationships with peers and teachers.

                                   2. Inappropriate types of behavior under normal circumstances.

                                   3. A tendency to develop physical symptoms or fears associated with
                                      personal or school problems.

                                   4. A general pervasive mood of unhappiness or depression.

                               This includes students who are schizophrenic, but does not include
                               students who are socially maladjusted, unless it is determined that they
                               are seriously emotionally disturbed. The term emotional impairment does
                               not usually include (a) antisocial behavior, (b) parent-child problems, (c)
                               conduct disorders, (d) interpersonal problems, or (e) other problems that
                               are not the result of a severe mental disorder.


3. Communication               Communication Impairment includes two disabilities: speech disorders
Impairments                    and language disorders. Students whose educational performance is
                               adversely affected by a developmental or acquired communication
                               disorder to include voice, fluency, articulation, receptive, and/or
                               expressive language.



                               Page 39                                    GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                               Appendix II: DODEA Categories and
                               Definitions of Disabilities




Language/Phonological          Language/phonological disorders are characterized by an
Disorders                      impairment/delay in receptive and/or expressive language including
                               semantics, orphology/syntax, phonology and/or pragmatics. This
                               impairment does not include students whose language problems are due
                               to English as a second language or dialect difference.

Speech Disorders               1. Articulation disorder is characterized by substitutions, distortions,
                                  and/or omissions of phonemes that are not commensurate with
                                  expected developmental age norms, that are not the result of limited
                                  English proficiency or dialect difference, and that may cause
                                  unintelligible conversational speech.

                               2. Fluency disorder is characterized by atypical rate, rhythm, repetitions,
                                  and/or secondary behavior(s) that interferes with communication or is
                                  inconsistent with age/development.

                               3. Voice disorder is characterized by abnormal pitch, intensity,
                                  resonance, duration, and/or quality that is inappropriate for
                                  chronological age or gender.



4. Learning Impairments        Learning Impairment includes two disabilities: specific learning disability
                               and intellectual disability.

Specific Learning Disability   Specific learning disability is a disorder in one or more of the basic
                               psychological processes involved in understanding or in using spoken or
                               written language that may manifest itself as an imperfect ability to listen,
                               think, speak, read, write, spell, remember, or do mathematical
                               calculations. The term includes such conditions as perceptual disabilities,
                               brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental
                               aphasia. The term does not include learning problems that are primarily
                               the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities; of mental retardation or
                               emotional disturbance; or of environmental, cultural, or economic
                               disadvantage.

Intellectual Disability        Intellectual disability is significantly sub-average intellectual functioning
                               existing concurrently with deficits in adaptive behavior and manifested
                               during the developmental period that adversely affects a student’s
                               educational performance. Significant sub-average general intellectual
                               functioning is documented by a comprehensive intelligence test score that
                               is two or more standard deviations below the mean.




                               Page 40                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
                         Appendix II: DODEA Categories and
                         Definitions of Disabilities




5. Developmental Delay   The term developmental delay refers to a significant discrepancy in the
                         actual functioning of an infant, toddler, or child birth through age 7, when
                         compared with the functioning of a nondisabled infant, toddler, or child of
                         the same chronological age in the following areas: physical, cognitive,
                         communication, social or emotional, and adaptive development as
                         measured using standardized evaluation instruments and confirmed by
                         clinical observation and judgment. A child classified with a developmental
                         delay before age 7 may maintain that eligibility classification through age
                         10. Developmental delay does not refer to a condition in which a child is
                         slightly or momentarily lagging in development. The presence of a
                         developmental delay is an indication that the developmental processes
                         are significantly affected and that, without special intervention, it is likely
                         that the educational performance will be affected when the child reaches
                         school age.

                         There are five developmental areas of concern in the definition of
                         developmental delay:

                             1. Physical Development - Fine/gross motor skills used for
                                coordinated use of muscles and body control in actions such as
                                balance, standing, walking, climbing, object manipulation, cutting,
                                and pre-writing activities.

                             2. Communication Development - Ability to understand and use
                                language and the phonological processes.

                             3. Cognitive Development - Ability to receive information, process
                                relationships, and apply knowledge.

                             4. Social/Emotional Development - Ability to develop and maintain
                                functional interpersonal relationships and to exhibit social and
                                emotional behaviors appropriate to the setting.

                             5. Adaptive/Self-Help Development - Ability to deal with
                                environmental expectations and use functional daily living skills.




                         Page 41                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Appendix III: Comments from the
              Appendix III: Comments from the Department
              of Defense



Department of Defense




              Page 42                                      GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 43                                      GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Appendix III: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 44                                      GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  George Scott, 202-512-7215 or scottg@gao.gov
GAO Contact

                  In addition to the contact named above, Elizabeth Sirois, Assistant
Staff             Director; Divya Bali, Jennifer Cook, and Charlene J. Lindsay made
Acknowledgments   significant contributions to this report. Also contributing to this report were
                  Deborah Bland, Kate van Gelder, Mimi Nguyen, Steven Putansu, James
                  Rebbe, Michael Silver, and Rachael Valliere.




                  Page 45                                     GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
Related GAO Products
             Related GAO Products




             Education of Military Dependent Students: Better Information Needed to
             Assess Student Performance. GAO-11-231. Washington, D.C.: March 1,
             2011.

             DOD Schools: Additional Reporting Could Improve Accountability for
             Academic Achievement of Students with Dyslexia. GAO-08-70.
             Washington, D.C.: December 6, 2007.

             Military Personnel: Medical, Family Support, and Educational Services
             Are Available for Exceptional Family Members. GAO-07-317R.
             Washington, D.C.: March 16, 2007.

             DOD Schools: Limitations in DOD-Sponsored Study on Transfer
             Alternatives Underscore Need for Additional Assessment. GAO-05-469.
             Washington, D.C.: April 26, 2005.




(131101)
             Page 46                                 GAO-12-680 Military Dependent Students
GAO’s Mission         The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation, and
                      investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting its
                      constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance and
                      accountability of the federal government for the American people. GAO
                      examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and
                      policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance
                      to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding decisions.
                      GAO’s commitment to good government is reflected in its core values of
                      accountability, integrity, and reliability.

                      The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no
Obtaining Copies of   cost is through GAO’s website (http://www.gao.gov). Each weekday
GAO Reports and       afternoon, GAO posts on its website newly released reports, testimony,
                      and correspondence. To have GAO e-mail you a list of newly posted
Testimony             products, go to http://www.gao.gov and select “E-mail Updates.”

Order by Phone        The price of each GAO publication reflects GAO’s actual cost of
                      production and distribution and depends on the number of pages in the
                      publication and whether the publication is printed in color or black and
                      white. Pricing and ordering information is posted on GAO’s website,
                      http://www.gao.gov/ordering.htm.
                      Place orders by calling (202) 512-6000, toll free (866) 801-7077, or
                      TDD (202) 512-2537.
                      Orders may be paid for using American Express, Discover Card,
                      MasterCard, Visa, check, or money order. Call for additional information.
                      Connect with GAO on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.
Connect with GAO      Subscribe to our RSS Feeds or E-mail Updates. Listen to our Podcasts.
                      Visit GAO on the web at www.gao.gov.
                      Contact:
To Report Fraud,
Waste, and Abuse in   Website: http://www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm
                      E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov
Federal Programs      Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470

                      Katherine Siggerud, Managing Director, siggerudk@gao.gov, (202) 512-
Congressional         4400, U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room
Relations             7125, Washington, DC 20548

                      Chuck Young, Managing Director, youngc1@gao.gov, (202) 512-4800
Public Affairs        U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149
                      Washington, DC 20548




                        Please Print on Recycled Paper.