Looping Parents In On Armed Services Aptitude Test Maryland is now the first state to require parents' approval before a student can take the widely used test -- which the U.S. military developed to identify potential recruits. The state also bars high schools from automatically releasing students' test scores to recruiters.
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Looping Parents In On Armed Services Test

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Looping Parents In On Armed Services Test

Looping Parents In On Armed Services Test

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Robert Siegel.

This month, Maryland became the first state in the country to bar high schools from automatically releasing student test scores on a widely used aptitude test; a test developed by the U.S. military to identify potential recruits. Many schools had been sending results, as well as detailed information about students, directly to recruiters without parents' permission.

Now, sponsors of the ban in Maryland are pushing for a ban in other states, as NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ: Ross Scarshia(ph) took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, back in high school in Laurel, Maryland - boring, he remembers thinking. But towards the end of the three and a half hour test, something piqued his interest.

Mr. ROSS SCARSHIA: I remembered seeing armored assault vehicle commander and that stuck in my brain for a long time.

SANCHEZ: Scarshia had not thought that much about the military, but not long after taking the ASVAB, he started talking to his father about joining the Army.

Mr. SCARSHIA: And he was completely against it. And he said if I joined the military, I would get shot.

SANCHEZ: Scarshia joined ROTC after enrolling at the University of Maryland, where he's now a junior. After college, he hopes to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan.

To this day, Scarshia isn't sure he told his parents he had taken the ASVAB, but his school did turn over his test results to military recruiters. That was wrong, says Sheila Hixson, who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee in the Maryland legislature.

Ms. SHEILA HIXSON (Chairman, House Ways and Means Committee, Maryland): The parents have a right to know.

SANCHEZ: What Hixson did was push through legislation making Maryland the only state in the country that no longer allows schools to administer the ASVAB without parental approval. It also prevents schools from releasing the test results to military recruiters without parents' or students' permission.

Ms. HIXSON: We didn't criticize the test, didn't ask them to change anything. That is not our role. Our role was to let the parents know and that's all.

SANCHEZ: With more than 600,000 high school students in Maryland and across the country taking the test every year, Hixson says she saw this as an issue of parental rights and students' privacy.

But the man who oversees all active duty recruiting for the U.S. Department of Defense, Dr. Curtis Gilroy, says the U.S. military has nothing to do with how school officials administer the ASVAB or release the results.

Dr. CURTIS GILROY (Director, Accession Policy, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness): Whether or not the school official seeks student or parent or guardian permission is entirely up to that school. And we don't have anything to say about that at all.

SANCHEZ: There's no doubt, though, says Gilroy, that the ASVAB is important to military recruiters, because it's a treasure trove of information about students, their talents and skills.

Dr. GILROY: The ASVAB really is to the military what the SAT is to colleges and universities.

SANCHEZ: That's why he worries about what Maryland has done.

Dr. GILROY: The Maryland law completely limits the release of scores. And it does create barriers to students to learn more about the opportunities and benefits of military service and careers. That is what is unfortunate about the Maryland law.

SANCHEZ: Critics say the ASVAB is a lot more than a career exploration test.

Mr. PAT ELDER (Member, Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy): It is perhaps the military's most important recruiting tool, period.

SANCHEZ: Pat Elder is with the Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy. It lobbied vigorously to stop schools from automatically releasing the ASVAB test results to recruiters.

Mr. ELDER: They're able to give a test to 650,000 kids every year, and they do so largely without parental consent. I mean, 92 percent of the kids that took the test didn't have parental consent.

SANCHEZ: And even though the ASVAB is a voluntary test, Elder says over a thousand schools require it. The Pentagon could not verify this or confirm if the 92 percent figure was accurate.

The Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy, meanwhile, is advising groups in Wisconsin, Oregon, New Hampshire, Georgia, North Carolina and a few other states to require parents' permission before schools give kids the ASVAB or release the results.

As for Ross Scarshia, who credits the ASVAB for helping him consider a military career, he says he just wanted to serve his country.

Mr. SCARSHIA: And if a high school student truly wants to do it, he should be able to make that choice. He shouldn't have to have his father's permission.

SANCHEZ: Scarshia says even his father couldn't keep him from falling in love with the military.

Claudio Sanchez, NPR News.

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