Many Students Fail Military Entrance Exam

NPR ran a disturbing story tonight about the fact that a quarter of applicants fail the military entrance exam (ASVAB) which only require 31correctly answer questions out of 99.
The story was based on EdTrust’s report Shut Out of the Military.  EdTrust’s Amy Wilkins suggests the results have big implications for society as a whole. “The workforce of the Army so closely mirrors the civilian workforce,” she says, “that if kids aren’t ready for jobs in the Army, they also aren’t ready for jobs in the civilian workforce.”
Dr. Curtis Gilroy, the Pentagon’s point person for recruitment of the active duty force said, “It’s important to us in the military because we are a selective and discerning employer, and we’re concerned that the pool from which we draw our recruits… is shrinking.”
For more on high school reform visit Alliance for Excellent Education:

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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I think there is another way to look at the ASVAB failure statistics. The group of people taking the ASVAB is self-selected. You would most likely only take it if you were seriously considering joining up. And until recently, before the economy faltered, military recruiters were having trouble meeting their targets because of the dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
So it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that most of the people taking the ASVAB are those with few other prospects — those who failed to enter college (or couldn’t afford it), or who could not find employment that offers the same benefits or advancement possibilities that the military does. More than 2.5 million people graduate from high school in the U.S. each year, but the sample analyzed by the Education Trust consisted of just 350,000: those between the ages of 17 and 20 who took the test anytime during the five-year period studied. This is too small a sample of U.S. high school graduates to draw any blanket conclusions about the U.S. educational system.
I wrote more about the story here:


Tom Vander Ark

it's clearly a self-selecting group, but 2/3 of US kids don't get what they need from high school--they don't leave with solid post-secondary options


When I ponder the education crisis, Rachel's comment here sends me to despair.
"I don’t think", she writes, "the top brass really minded being the last-chance ticket to the middle class for minority youth" . Last-chance ticket? Is that how Washington, Lincoln, the Tuskegee Airman felt? Yet our education system is to the point where highly educated and articulate authors default to such thought.
How did education so stray?
235 years this week, Thomas Paine published these words on those who do and do not join up:

"The present winter is worth an age if rightly employed, but if lost or neglected, the whole continent will partake of the misfortune; and there is no punishment which that man will not deserve, be he who, or what, or where he will, that may be the means of sacrificing a season so precious and useful."

Soldiering was high honor then, as now.
To say that "most of the people taking the ASVAB are those with few other prospects" suggests that these youth aspire to commodities trading, reality-TV producing, or--cough--copy editing; but just can't quite make it. Perhaps. There may be a few impoverished poets for whom this is true.
The average soldier hardly sees the career so; they see it instead with pride--and joy. It is, above all, a choice to engage the world as it is, not as it appears in print. It is to skip the continued softness of academia and to embrace the harder, more real world.
And it is an educated path, a skilled trade more demanding than most.
I think of sitting in a Barnes-&Noble outside Ft. Bragg as soldiers polished their Arabic. Of my young friend on his way to Korea as we speak, devouring books yet loving the drill. Of the Dental and infrastructure missions in south and central American, of the avionics technician sailor and his buddy a Marine on the President's advance crew. Of the imagery analysis tech a few blocks from here hurt not in battle, but in a POV.
Of the corporals and sergeants each an ambassador on the streets of Baghdad, Khost, Khandahar, matured far beyond their age; our foreign policy depending, in an instant-global-news environment, upon their every most sensitive discretion.
AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America's Upper Classes from Military Service -- and How It Hurts Our Country takes another tack, reminding us of the days when Ivy Leaguers sought the military.
Better, readers might pick up a set of Field Manuals and explore the complexities faced by the highly learned profession this is.


Statistics are misleading. I deliverately failed the ASVAB in high school. I graduated with high honors as a National Honor Society member and went on to graduate from college and grad school. I simply wanted nothing to do with the military. ASVAB was mandatory to take in my high school, however there was no rule about having to pass it! (LOL!).

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