Protecting Student Test Scores From Recruiters

A new Maryland law prohibits schools from sending test scores to military recruiters. It might protect student privacy, but prevent career discovery.
by | July 2010

High school is full of state proficiency exams and college boards such as the PSAT, SAT and ACT. But these tests aren't generating the kind of controversy that a Department of Defense-sponsored test is. That test's scores, along with other student data, can be released to the military, which spurred Maryland lawmakers to enact the nation's first state law prohibiting schools from releasing test scores to military recruiters.

About 12,000 high schools across the country offer the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) exam, a test that evaluates math, reading, science and technical skills. Besides determining a student's strengths and weaknesses in these areas, the test also assesses a student's eligibility for a military career. Schools can choose one of eight options regarding the release of test scores to recruiters. Maryland's law, in effect this month, requires public schools to choose "Option 8," prohibiting schools from releasing student scores. Students who want to release their ASVAB scores can do so individually.

The law stems from concerns that ASVAB scores for underage students were being sent without parental consent. A provision in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 allows recruiters to request the names, addresses and telephone numbers of secondary school students. But ASVAB data includes more personal information about a student, like their strengths and weaknesses. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act does not apply to ASVAB data since the test and scoring is done by the Department of Defense. Hawaii is the only other state where all schools select Option 8, a policy the Hawaii Department of Education adopted in 2009.

Supporters of Maryland's legislation--similar legislation in California was vetoed in 2008--are starting to mobilize, planning conference calls to see if they can replicate similar legislation in their state, says Pat Elder, teacher and co-founder of the Maryland Coalition to Protect Student Privacy. The Defense Department doesn't have an official position on such legislation, but there is concern that students might miss out on a potential career. "An important part of any career exploration process is the ability to talk about career opportunities with potential employers--including military recruiters," says department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez.

Tina Trenkner
Tina Trenkner | Deputy Editor, |  |  @tinatrenkner