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Military-connected (MC) families are tough and agile. Moving three times more often, on average, than their civilian counterparts, parents and students quickly learn to become fierce advocates for themselves, lobbying schools to provide the basic educational services and social-emotional supports to which all American children are entitled. But this advocacy becomes exhausting and draws time away from the other pressing demands of relocation and family life. What relief might parents feel if they did not have to constantly put on their armor to fight these battles? And what more could students accomplish if they did not have to settle for good enough?

One promising new initiative — the Purple Star School designation program (Purple Star program) — seeks to reduce this burden on families. By articulating the most critical transition supports for military-connected families and publicly designating schools that meet those requirements, the program signals to military-connected families which schools are the most committed and best equipped to meet their needs.

To better understand the landscape around and impact of the Purple Star program, the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), the initiative’s national advocate, engaged the Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia University (CPRL) to conduct a study of the program across four states. In this report, we summarize the findings of that investigation, assessing the strengths of current initiatives, identifying potential areas of growth, and offering recommendations to guide the improvement of both extant and emergent initiatives.