Is it another reason why repealing DADT is important?
A new report by the Education Trust finds that nearly one-quarter of recent high school graduates couldn’t get into the Army because they weren’t smart enough to pass the basic entrance exam.
The study looked at 350,000 graduates between 2005 and 2009; 23 percent of them didn’t get the minimum score –31 out of 99– needed to enroll. Thirty-one out of 99!
The exam, which has been in place since the First World War, tests students on basic reading, science, and math skills, and includes questions like: “If 2 plus x equals 4, what is the value of x?”
While military enrollment has been up this year, Army officials worry that a flawed education system might be cutting them off from future recruits. The high percentage of failure is especially daunting given that “75 percent of those aged 17 to 24 don’t even qualify to take the test because they are physically unfit, have a criminal record or didn’t graduate high school.”
This is the first time the Army has made the data public, and the scores exposed wide discrepancies among minority applicants, with black and Hispanic applicants less likely to pass than white ones.
While this news makes repeal of DADT more important, the test raises alarm bells about what Education Secretary Arne Duncan calls “the national security burden created by America’s underperforming education system.”
Secretary Duncan might consider this: In 2008, your median person who enlisted in the Army was scoring between the 50th and 64th percentile on this aptitude test. Less than four percent came from below the 30th percentile. In fact, new enlisted soldiers are significantly more likely than civilians to score above-average on these tests. And this is the enlisted group, not officers, who do even better. The exact numbers vary with the year, but not that much.
On the other hand, the test is also population-normed: A 31 out of 99 on the AFQT (which is the subscore they’re talking about) means you’re in the 31st percentile of Americans. In other words, the test is designed so that 30 percent of Americans will “fail” it. So the fact 23 percent of high school grads who take it fail it, may not be as stunning as it sounds. That percentage of high school grads passing the test can only go down if fewer people go to high school or more people who don’t go to high school fail the test. If high school grads get smarter, the test gets renormed.