Shut Out of the Military: Today???s High School Education Doesn???t Mean You???re Ready for Today???s Army

Americans felt the earthquake of a “Sputnik
” back in December with the announcement of the 2009 PISA results.
This report from Education Trust delivers a non-trivial aftershock. More than
one in five American youth who take the Armed Forces Qualification Exam (AFQT)
fail to meet the minimum competency standards for enlistment. Note: this group
is drawn from the slim 25 percent of youngsters in the U.S. who are even eligible
to take the test in the first place
(a high school diploma and certain
level of physical fitness being among the prerequisites). Further, African
American and Hispanic students score significantly worse than whites; about 40
percent and 30 percent of the two groups, respectively, fail to meet the Army’s
standards. Truth be told, the study has many limitations—the most notable of
which are the self-selected sample (including only individuals who voluntarily
chose to take the test) and lack of socio-economic-status data. Still, the
message is clear: The United States isn’t only under-educating future
college-goers, as PISA results attest, it’s under-educating would-be service
men and women as well. Though these individuals possess high-school diplomas,
they lack the reading, math, science, and problem-solving skills needed to
serve our nation. As Ed Trust states, “The loss is theirs—and ours.”

The Education Trust, "Shut
Out of the Military: Today’s High School Education Doesn’t Mean You’re Ready
for Today’s Army
," (Washington, D.C.: The
Education Trust, December 2010).