High school grads fall short in military aptitude tests

Thursday - 1/20/2011, 9:40am EST

Christina Theokas, Director of Research, The Education Trust

Click below to hear the interview

Download mp3

By John Buckner
Federal News Radio

One in five high school graduates taking entry exams do not qualify to enlist in the armed forces, according to a study conducted in 2010 by The Education Trust.

Christina Theokas, Director of Research for The Education Trust and author of the report, Shut Out of the Military, told Federal News Radio that the results reflect the K-12 education system and specifically high school preparation.

"We expect that if students earn a high school diploma, which typically means completing four classes in English, four classes in math, at least two in science and social studies as well as foreign language, that you should be qualified and ready to join the military. That should indicate a readiness or preparation for any post-secondary endeavor whether it's college or career or service in the military."

Theokas said that the "Army and military, historically, have not had a problem reaching their recruiting goals" and that the study really speaks to the "readiness of our high school students." With the 21st century demands of the military including technology advancements and more developed skills, Theokas said "we need our high school students to meet the new demands."

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), the test used to evaluate military prospects, consists of a math and reading section amounting to one score. Sub-sections of science and problem solving skills are also tested. "We are seeing that students are not having those basic skills to say that they are ready to join the military," said Theokas.

The study, which broke down the test scores by state and race, showed that across the board applicants of color scored lower than their white peers. According to Theokas' report, "16 percent of white applicants were ineligible, 29 percent of hispanic test takers were ineligible and nearly 39 percent of African-American students being ineligible." Theokas said that these results "are a real call to action that we have to really think about all of our kids being prepared equally with that high school diploma."

As far as a solution to this problem, Theokas supports more education about the military for high school students. She said that educators, counselors, teachers, students and parents don't know that the military is a selective recruiter. "The general assumption is that kids can find that second chance opportunity in the military and that's just not true."

Another initiative Theokas suggested was an increase in the high school curriculum to prepare students for the ASVAB in the same fashion as preparing for the SAT. Theokas said, "We really need to think about what does a high school diploma mean" and maintaining it's credibility as proof of readiness for future endeavors.

The next step for Theokas' report is to have it seen by the Education Department as well as educators and schools in order to "help students interested in the Army and the military in general, to be ready for that option." The military as yet to respond to the report.

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.