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Post Schools vs. Civilian Schools: What's the Difference?

Updated: Oct 10, 2020

As a military kid, I've lived in a lot of different houses in many very different neighborhoods and towns. An interesting factoid about my military experience is that I’ve only lived on-post once, at Fort Huachuca. Because of this, I have a lot of experience going to school off-post, and I can tell you based on my experience that it is quite different than attending on-post schools. Maybe you’re a military kid about to be attending an off-base school for the first time, or vice-versa. Here, I've shared my observations in the hopes that you can have a better idea of what to expect. We all know how nerve-racking going to a new school can be, especially if it’s different than what you're used to.

Observation 1: Post schools are cleaner and better kept.

This is something I’ve really thought about recently, as the school I'm currently attending is just nasty. The bathrooms are hardly ever clean and smell strongly of weed and vape juice. Those same things can be said about my old high school, which also had locker rooms filled with trash and science classrooms that always smelled of a mix of strong chemicals and teen BO. However, in my experience, none of these are big problems in on-post schools. I think this is because of a combination of stricter regulations and a higher-paid/scrutinized staff. If you're making the switch from a civilian school to a post school, you can probably look forward to cleaner, better kept facilities, which is great! If you're making the opposite switch, then it could be worse as far as being consistently kept. I’m sure this could be a case by case thing, but in my experience that has been the situation.

Observation 2: Teachers have more freedom off-post.

Off-post, you and your teachers have more freedom to try and do various things that you can’t do on-post. This is because post schools have to follow the on-post guidelines, which we all know can be pretty strict and random. For example, many post schools have some semblance of a uniform policy; this is usually in place to promote discipline. However, as someone who has experienced uniform policies, I've noticed the results of such are typically fifty-fifty. Another interesting fact I’ve found by further researching this topic is that on-post schools usually have stricter tardy policies and a harsher approach towards cell phone use. I find this interesting because in a lot of public schools, it seems most teachers don’t care too much if you're on your phone as long as you get your work done, but at many on-post schools they seldom allow such behavior. Lastly, post teachers are more pressured to teach by the curriculum than off-post teachers are. This can be good or bad depending on what teachers you have from each side. Some off-post teachers thrive by veering off the curriculum to make your learning experience fruitful and exciting, but others abuse the lenience and just end up teaching you useless things that you won’t need, leaving you feeling ill-prepared.

Observation 3: Post schools have better-quality Teachers.

This one isn’t even really debatable to me; there has been a huge disparity in the average quality of on-post and off-post teachers in my experience. You don’t have to search too far to find the answer to this: post schools are government-funded. This is also why they have cleaner facilities. Because of this superior funding, teachers working at post schools make around $65k a year on average, and U.S. public school teachers make an average of $53k a year (according to Another interesting fact is the average U.S. Army Staff Sergeant salary is around $42k a year, a number that I find very odd. However, that number does not include the many bonuses and incentives that are often stacked on throughout the year by the DOD. Because of these number disparities, on-post schools typically get their hands on more effective teachers than off-post schools, which is also most likely why on-post schools usually have better standardized test scores than their regional counterparts.

There are a multitude of differences between on and off-post schools, so I hope this article has helped you become aware of those differences and know what to expect. Despite everything I’ve mentioned in this article, it’s important to remember that you can always make your own school experience better. Try your best to meet new people and use the opportunities your school offers. With some effort, you can make any school you end up at a second home.


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