November 28, 2005

Dropouts and the military

Jim Horn at Schools Matter (not Jim Horne, the former Commissioner of Ed in Florida) recently noted the existence of a sub-GED army enlistment program, suggesting that there's a reciprocity between higher graduation standards (esp. graduation tests) and needing cannon fodder for Iraq. While he does note an online article boosting the GED Plus enlistment program, and while he joins several other bloggers in noting the program, Tim Schmoyer corrects the record: the Army first announced the program in 2000, although the incentive in the late Clinton era was to draw people from what was then the end of the boom times labor market (I assume the Army took a year for internal development of the guidelines, so the development process would have started in 1999), not to counter the bad news from Iraq by lowering standards.

And I'm not sure from the Army press release that the numbers are affected that much. The program takes only high school dropouts who score fairly highly on the qualifying test, have no criminal or arrest record, and meet several other criteria, including having what's described vaguely as high motivation. I've met a few military officers who scrutinize retention statistics very carefully, and they would have been quite skeptical of any program that let in a significant number of high school dropouts. From their perspective, GED recipients have higher general discharge rates (i.e., neither honorable nor dishonorable) and are risky enough compared to recipients of regular high-school degrees. In normal times, the military doesn't have the "acceptable failure rate" dilemma of school systems.

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Posted in Education policy on November 28, 2005 10:08 AM |