ASVAB schools tend to be smaller, conservative
For American high school students, the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery is a free, accessible alternative to standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT.
It’s also a foot in the door for a career in the military. An individual’s ASVAB score dictates his or her eligibility for certain jobs and can even impact enlistment bonuses. All recruits are expected to achieve a minimum score, which varies from branch to branch.
Holyoke High School is one of 195 Colorado schools offering the test during the 2018-19 academic year, according to data from the Denver Military Entrance Processing Station.
Students in 56 of Colorado’s 64 counties will have the chance to take the test this year. Nearly all of the testing sites are at public high schools, and last year, the Colorado Department of Education reported that the testing schools enrolled approximately 136,000 students, or 14.9 percent of all Colorado public school students.
As of Nov. 1, along with two-thirds of testing schools, HHS is seated in a county with more registered Republicans than Democrats. Like the other sites, Holyoke JR/SR High School enrolled fewer students last year than the average Colorado school — 257 to the state’s 391. The average testing school enrolled 336.5 students.
The HHS student body also sat slightly above the state average of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, which is commonly used as a measure of family income. The average percentage of students who qualified at a testing school was 44.9 percent, compared to 44 percent in Holyoke and 42 percent in Colorado as a whole.
The ASVAB was first introduced in 1968 and by 1976 became standard across all branches of the military for selection and classification.
The fact that the test is offered in public schools has polarized some communities, like Hillsborough, North Carolina, where three students were sent to an in-school suspension classroom after refusing to take the test in 2008.
Critics point to cases where the ASVAB is offered as an alternative in schools that require SAT or ACT scores as a graduation requirement. Unlike the SAT and ACT, the ASVAB was not designed as an academic aptitude test, but as a way of determining suitability for certain jobs. Others see the test simply as a recruitment tool.
Proponents argue that the test offers a career road map for youth that isn’t limited to options in the armed services. It also provides a benchmark for schools and an important collection of data points in the event that a large number of young people are called up for service.