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Pentagon Data on Student Testing Program Rife with Errors and Contradictions

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Psychology 101

School officials often ask, "What's the problem with sharing student information with the recruiting command?"   

Some aren't too smart and they can get killed would be the answer.

Military recruiting is an exceptionally sophisticated psychological program aimed at enticing high school children. The American Public Health Association (APHA) has called for the cessation of military recruiting in the nation's high schools, citing the vulnerable stage of brain development of youth and their "limitations in judging risk at this stage in life. They are unable to fully evaluate the consequences of making a choice to enter the military."  The APHA specifically calls for the end to military testing in the high schools.


Patterns of Obfuscation

In 2010 Maryland became the first state to pass a law requiring the universal selection of Option 8 for all high school students taking the ASVAB.  When the bill was working its way through the legislature, the USMEPCOM Battalion Commander at Fort George G. Meade warned school officials and legislators of a "disinformation campaign" regarding the school testing program.  The Colonel wrote that the efforts to encourage schools to select Option 8 are "bent on disrupting any effort to build, support, or sustain the military."  

It is apparent the Pentagon has orchestrated a "disinformation" campaign of its own.

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Guidance counselors in high schools in a dozen states across the country have said they were told by MEPS personnel that privacy concerns are misplaced because students sign a "Privacy Act Statement" that is part of the ASVAB answer sheet.  It is a very familiar refrain.  The counselors are led to believe that the Privacy Act Statement gives students notice of the release of test results to military recruiters and provides student consent for the release of information.  The statement, however, says nothing about recruiter contact. The statement is not a proper waiver of rights because it does not disclose that ASVAB test results may be used for recruitment purposes, and it does not do away with the obligation to obtain consent from a parent or guardian when a student is under age 18. This is precisely where the program runs afoul of state laws.

See the 2013 report Best Practices for ASVAB-CEP Administration from Rutgers Law School. The report makes a compelling case that high school counselors have both legal and professional responsibilities to ensure that ASVAB student test information is not automatically released to military recruiters.

Another misperception spread by the recruiting command is the notion that the "Opt Out" law covers ASVAB testing.  Every fall parents of American high school children are provided the opportunity to "opt out" of information being forwarded to recruiting services pertaining to their children. If parents haven't "opted out", the reasoning goes, their kids are fair game for the ASVAB.   The "opt out" law is found in Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and is limited to the release of a student's name, address, and phone number.  The ASVAB, on the other hand, provides an in-depth cognitive picture of a student, along with detailed demographic information and social security number. ESEA doesn't regulate ASVAB testing.

Still, another obfuscation practiced by USMEPCOM is the use of ASVAB Test Request Forms that are distributed to high school administrators that purposely leave off Option 8.  See this form distributed by the recruiting command to school administrators in Prince George's County, Maryland.  School officials were so incensed they supported an effort that resulted in passing a law that mandates the selection of Option 8 across the state.

Another reprehensible practice involves recruiters who lurk on internet chat rooms like Yahoo Answers. It's a way for Staff Sergeants to procure leads to meet their monthly quotas and sometimes it's laughable. Consider this post in mid-December, 2013, "I'm a junior in high school (17) and I took the ASVAB. When I was taking the test it didn't seem hard. Yes it was timed, and I have test anxiety. I think that's why I did so poorly. I made a score of 16. I cried afterwards because one, I felt stupid, and two, I want to join the military and I know getting a 16 won't qualify me for any jobs. I am planning on joining the Marine Corp. I know you're probably going to tell me to study. But can you give me some good advice on what to do to keep my head up and keep trying?" 

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A score of 16 would mean our Yahoo friend is functionally illiterate. A 16 roughly equates to a 2nd grade level and is half of the score necessary to enlist in the Army.  Several of the comments alluded to the contradiction between the claimed score of 16 and the rather well written question.  Yahoo Answers enforces Community Guidelines.  Under the heading "Exploiting the Community" Yahoo requires participants "to be responsible and don't misrepresent yourself or claim false credentials" Yahoo Answers is a place to gain knowledge, not customers."

Yahoo is quick to remove these miscreants and has done so a dozen times.
The question has been deleted.

The greatest fallacy perpetrated by the Pentagon is their insistence that ASVAB testing is not subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is ludicrous to suggest that ASVAB results are not education records because the military, instead of the school, proctors the test. Although the recruiting command may send one civilian employee to officially administer the exam, it is school employees who market the test over several weeks, assemble and keep track of students, and provide much of the work controlling a large group of teenagers for a few hours.

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Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coaliton to Protect Student Privacy,, NNOMY

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