To the Editor:
I appreciated your recent article on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB (“Military Eyes Wider Access for Career-Aptitude Test Under ESSA”). As the only school testing program exempt from the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the armed-services test battery deserves much greater scrutiny than it has been getting thus far.
I would like to clarify, however, one point. Citing Pentagon data, the article notes that taking the ASVAB was mandatory for students in approximately 1,000 schools during the 2012-13 school year. Shannon Salyer, the national program manager for the ASVAB Career Exploration Program under the U.S. Department of Defense, claims that the testing program is “always voluntary,” and that students may be required to sit for this testing, but are not forced to complete it. This is a distinction without a difference. Three hours of a student’s day are still consumed by a military-recruiting exercise, and the student has no choice in the matter.
It’s also important to remember that military recruiters are ordered to try to get as many schools as possible to require ASVAB testing. For example, the U.S. Navy’s recruiting manual offers this bit of advice: “Request the school make [ASVAB] testing mandatory or at least publicize it sufficiently in advance to maximize participation.” Similar guidance can be found in the U.S. Army trade magazine Recruiter Journal.
Scores of high schools in the Lone Star State continue to practice mandatory ASVAB testing. But in Austin, the state capital, the school board passed a policy last fall barring high schools from automatically sending ASVAB scores to recruiters.
Hopefully, more communities will follow Texas’ lead and make sensible policy changes to better protect student privacy.
Texas Coalition to Protect Student Privacy
Fort Worth, Texas
A version of this article appeared in the April 13, 2016 edition of Education Week as U.S. Military’s Career-Aptitude Testing Raises Student-Privacy Concerns