Missouri Program Requires High School Students To Take Military Enlistment Test

Multiple choice.(Photo: DrWurm / Flickr)The Missouri School Improvement Program, which is set to take effect beginning with the 2014-15 school year, establishes five standards of accountability used to rate school performance. The third standard calls on high schools to administer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program (ASVAB-CEP) to determine whether students are “College and Career Ready.”

The ASVAB is the entrance exam the military gives to recruits to determine their aptitude for various occupations. The test also is used as a recruiting tool in 11,700 high schools across the country. The ASVAB is the most important component of the Pentagon’s school-recruiting program because it provides information on the cognitive abilities of students, something the Department of Defense cannot purchase or find online.

Participation in the ASVAB-CEP allows high schools to take advantage of the career exploration component of the testing regime while prohibiting the release of ASVAB results for recruiting purposes. ASVAB results include three hours of test data, sensitive personal demographic information on children and Social Security numbers. There are no privacy protections built into the Missouri School Improvement Program. ASVAB results are the only student information leaving Missouri’s schools without providing for parental consent.

Schools in Missouri may select ASVAB Release Option 8 (See USMEPCOM 601-4 Table 3-1) to protect the privacy of children. Release Option 8 prohibits the release of student data to recruiters. According to data recently obtained from the Department of Defense through a Freedom of Information Act request, just 2.2 percent of the more than 27,000 students tested in Missouri last year had Release Option 8 selected by school officials. Nationally, the figure is 15 percent.

The database reports that 55 Missouri high schools require students to take the test, when the real number is several times larger.

Meanwhile, states such as Maryland and Hawaii and more than 2,000 high schools across the country mandate the selection of ASVAB Release Option 8 to protect the privacy of students. The test was administered to 673,000 children in nearly 12,000 schools across the country during the 2012-13 school year.

Missouri’s Nevada High School, about 50 miles south of Kansas City, advises children not to be concerned with the privacy implications of the ASVAB-CEP. The school apparently mirrors the attitudes of state school officials.

From the school’s web site: “There is a fear that you will be recruited. And you will be. But that is completely unrelated to taking the ASVAB at school, or even having heard of the ASVAB. Being recruited is a function of being the age you are. There are lots of recruiters out there. They have access to lots of databases (census, school directories, DMV, credit and bank records, etc.), including ours. Their job is to find you and ask if you want to join the military and they are very good at their job. If you do not want to, simply say no. Throughout your life, you will have endless similar opportunities to turn down the chance to change your long distance carrier, have your carpets cleaned, or siding put on your house. Think of it as a case of “welcome to adulthood, here is your junk mail.” Such a false hope of not being recruited is a poor and ultimately pointless reason to avoid the value of using the ASVAB to learn of and use your aptitude scores.”

Like the officials with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Nevada High School fails to explain to the school community that the ASVAB may be administered without results being forwarded automatically to recruiters.

While many states are taking steps to strengthen privacy protections of children, Missouri is moving in the wrong direction.