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Milan parents object to school use of military test

Ohanian Comment: Question parents should ask school officials: What on earth does taking this test have to do with "accreditation requirements?" Someone is doing worse than blowing hot air here. Good for Michele Pringle and parents like her--who didn't take spin for an answer.

The second article has a few more details.

By Michael Neary

MILAN - Several parents remain concerned after Milan High School officials required sophomores to take a career aptitude test administered by the military to help the school meet its accreditation requirements.

The test is called the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a test familiar to other school districts in the county. Milan officials wanted to use the test - designed to identify potential career strengths - to help satisfy requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Steve Okonski said his 15-year-old daughter, Katie, was among several students asked, in front of the class, to sign the test after she had initially refused.

"She said she thought that she had signed up for military service at a later date," Mr. Okonski said in a telephone interview.

According to high school Principal Ron Reed, test proctors told students that the information gleaned from the test, given on May 17, would be available to the school and to parents but not to military recruiters.

"All the kids were told up front by (Mark) Rodan ... that this test would be for school use only, and it would not be released to the military," he said. "I can understand some of the students' anxiety - and some of the parents' anxiety. That's why we apologized."

Mr. Reed said that, as stipulated by "Option 8" of an agreement signed by the district, the results of the test cannot be released to the military.

Milan Area Schools Supt. Dennis McComb said notifying parents of the test, and the conditions surrounding it, could have relieved some of the tension that ensued.

"We didn't do a good job of informing the parents," said Mr. McComb.

Mr. Okonski said part of the confusion stemmed from the instruction to the sophomores to identify themselves as juniors. Michele Pringle, another Milan parent, agreed.

Mr. McComb and Mr. Reed said the test was administered at no charge by military officials, but that their policy was to administer it to juniors.

"That's how it qualifies for the free funding," said Mr. Reed. "We want to keep our accreditation. We don't want to spend five to 10 thousand if it's not really purposeful."

But Mr. Okonski said the atmosphere of the test, administered by the military, was threatening for young students.

"When you've got somebody in a full-dress Marine outfit, 15-year-olds are going to be pretty intimidated," he said.

Mr. Reed contended that exposure to military personnel in schools, even among young students, was not rare.

"We have military officials in the building all the time," said Mr. Reed. "A military uniform to me is not threatening. A military uniform should not imply fear. I can understand anxiety."

Ms. Pringle said she had filed complaints with the Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union and with several elected officials. She called on school officials to issue a written apology and return all of the test forms and personal information to the students' families.

Supt. McComb said he apologized in area newspaper articles for the way the testing was conducted and he stressed that the ASVAB would not be administered again by the school.

Military officials and Mark Rodan, a high school guidance counselor, administered the test. Mr. Rodan - who Supt. McComb said was the only school official in the room during the test-taking - was not available for comment Monday.

"Mr. Rodan is a person our kids should know is working for them," said Mr. Reed. "He's not a person who's going to set up kids for failure."

Military officials who administered the test also were unavailable for comment.

Milan is not the first district in the county to use the test for general, information-gathering purposes. Scott Leach, principal of Summerfield High School, said high school juniors there had the option of taking the ASVAB each fall.

He said the school does not release data to the military - though he noted that military officials recently called and asked for the information.

Mr. Leach also noted that students can opt out of the test if they choose.

"Ours is voluntary," he said. "We had a couple of students who didn't want to take it."

The test used to be given at Ida Public Schools, according to Supt. Marv Dick, but he said officials stopped using it about five years ago because students were taking several similar tests. He noted, too, that he was receiving complaints from parents.

"I did over the years have some parents call and say, ‘We were getting calls from recruiters'" after the testing, Supt. Dick said.

Supt. McComb said a new statewide test, the Michigan Merit Exam, would make using the ASVAB unnecessary for Milan.

Officials take heat over test

By Kym Boelter-Muckler
Milan News Leader

Milan Superintendent Dennis McComb said the district has itself to blame for the controversy caused when sophomore students were forced to take a military placement exam during their SRT class on May 17.

Uniformed military personnel administered the test known as the ASVAB, a comprehensive 3-hour aptitude test used by school districts for determining career pathways for students, in addition to its normal military aptitude use.

Originally, the ASVAB was used to predict future academic and occupational success in military occupations.

The test is a helpful tool for collecting career propensities. Students will be assisted with determining future career paths based on the data collected from the exam, Superintendent McComb indicated.

"The test was given to 10th-graders just for that purpose and the information stays here in the district with us," McComb said. "The information about this test was not communicated effectively to the parents—it's a career test."

This year was the first year the ASVAB test will be administered at Milan High School, but McComb indicated that Hillsdale Schools and several others in the state have used the ASVAB for several years.

But Michele Pringle, whose son took the test, is still concerned despite the district's explanations.

"THE TEST WAS mandatory not voluntary and that is illegal," said Pringle. "If the kids wanted to opt out they had 10 fully uniformed military personnel there to intimidate them into taking the test. These 10th grade students were told to lie and write on the test that they were in 11th grade which is also illegal, and lying is not a virtue I want instilled in my son."

McComb indicated that the test was designed for juniors, and because the school needed an aptitude test conducted on this group of students, agreed to administer the test to the sophomores as it was so close to the end of the year.

"As far as the military personnel directing the students to write that they were in 11th grade instead of 10th, I really can't address that, other than to say, they must've thought that since the students were so close to the end of the year it really wouldn't matter. The test was designed for 11th-graders to take," McComb said. "It may've to expedite the test on their side of it more efficiently."

PRINGLE WAS ONE of several parents who demanded that the tests be returned.

"They told the children they had to take this test and they had to sign a release," said Pringle, whose honor roll student, Jamie, came home upset that he had to take a military exam, and had to use valuable study time to take it.

"My son has no interest in the military and is not a member of the ROTC," said Pringle, who clarified that she is not against the military, and has several family members who are veterans and she herself serves on the American Legion Auxiliary.

MCCOMB CONCEDED that the district received numerous complaints about the test,

"The results of this test will not go with the military but will be retained by us," McComb said. "The data will help us with career pathways, and help our students make choices in planning for their own careers. The High School could've done a much better job communicating that to the parents."

The ASVAB tests for abilities in general science, arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, paragraph comprehension, mathematics knowledge, auto and shop information and mechanical comprehension.

"The ASVAB test will never be administered here in the Milan district again," McComb said. "We could've done a better job informing parents and students of the test, but it was noted in our daily announcements that are sent out to our teachers that day, and I read it in the same announcement. If teachers didn't know about it, it was because they hadn't seen their announcement for the day yet."

Next year the district will have the newly designed Michigan Merit Exam that was created to replace the Michigan Assessment Education Program test as part of the new education legislation passed this past year.

— Michael Neary and Kym Boelter-Muckler
Monroe News and Milan News Leader


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