From Draft NOtices, July-September 2006
Pat Elder -
The pressure is on. You’ve got a lot of things you want to do in your life and all too often, you’re going to have to pass a test to get what you want.
High school students across the country are greeted with this message when they log on to the March2Success.com Web site hosted by the U.S. Army. March2Success, a popular, Web-based, 30-hour course designed by Educational Options, The Princeton Review, and Kaplan, Inc., is ostensibly a program that provides training in test-taking strategies and problem-solving skills and teaches students how to improve their math and English knowledge.
The program, however, is actually a thinly veiled military recruiting tool. Like the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and the Junior Reserve Officer's Training Corps (JROTC), two widely prevalent programs in the nation's high schools, March2Success is about recruiting for the armed forces.
The Army freely admits there are several advantages to providing this online service to students. First, it drives traffic to the Army’s recruiting Web site, www.goarmy.com, and generates leads for recruiters to pursue. Students are prompted to indicate if they want to be contacted by a recruiter; Army graphics and propaganda are omnipresent. March2Success offers a state-of-the-art product to schools and students who rarely have access to free online instruction. The program helps to strengthen the relationship between Army recruiters and school staff. After all, school "penetration" and "ownership" are cited in military manuals as tasks for all school-based recruiters.
According to the U.S. Army Recruiter's Handbook, March2Success is designed primarily to build an image with students, parents and educators that the Army is high-tech and career-oriented. Lt. Col. Arnold Piper of the New York City Recruiting Battalion praised the military's test preparation program at a JROTC instructor conference. "March2Success is a definite combat multiplier for the recruiting force," he explained.
March2Success, the ASVAB and Kaplan
March2Success is designed to compliment the ASVAB, the test administered to all incoming recruits. According to Kaplan Inc., a leading expert in the field, the ASVAB is given in 14,000 high schools across the country. Approximately 1.3 million people take the ASVAB each year, including 400,000 recruits and 900,000 high school students. March2Success, however, does not provide specific instruction on the ASVAB; for that, students purchase online products or books directly from Kaplan. Of course, students who work though the March2Success program will undoubtedly improve their ASVAB performance. Kaplan has its own military page where it peddles an online course on preparing for the ASVAB. From the Kaplan.com site, students are encouraged to visit several Army-sponsored sites, including the Reserve Officer's Training Corps, the GI Bill of Rights and a site on military signing bonuses.
The Army claims an online course like March2Success would cost between $500 and $700. Kaplan's online SAT program alone sells for $399.
Kaplan, which had 2005 revenues of more than $1.4 billion and is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Washington Post Company, enjoys a mutually beneficial relationship with the Army. The Army creates the ASVAB market for Kaplan and stays away from competing through March2Success. Kaplan enjoys extraordinary exposure through March2Success, and the military gets leads through Kaplan's testing empire.
Schools buy in
The Web site of the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) urges guidance counselors to steer "at-risk" youth toward the Army’s new "Planning for Life" (PFL) program, ostensibly designed to help students further their education and plan for life. The ASCA claims "at-risk" youth receive motivational messages and tools to strengthen “mind, body and soul” during half-day workshops co-hosted by the Army and community groups. The PFL program stresses the importance of March2Success. The National Association of Elementary School Principals also promotes "Planning for Life" on its Web site.
The Army enthusiastically pitched March2Success during last year's annual convention of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. Army recruiters reported that principals across the country "showed a genuine interest in incorporating it in their schools."
The online program
The March2Success program is divided into three components: Standardized Test Preparation, Study Skills and Strategies, and SAT/ACT Preparation.
The Standardized Test component is "powered by" Educational Options, Inc. and is divided into language arts, math and science. Students are greeted with clever, well-written lessons before they are directed to tests where they're prompted to click on the answer. Their scores are tabulated and explained later.
The Study Skills and Strategies section is produced by Kaplan, Inc. Students are initially given a product key that they can use to access Kaplan's "Achieva Skills and Strategies for High School." The program is highly interactive, has delightful graphics and audio, and allows students to use an interactive "locker" that enables them to search for information while going through lessons. The locker contains interactive flashcards for English and math terms, as well as links to a dictionary, encyclopedia and thesaurus. It is sophisticated, enjoyable and extremely worthwhile, especially considering the price tag.
The Kaplan course used by March2Success includes a bare-bones online SAT test. Students taking the SAT practice test are casually told to "set some time aside and take the test from start to finish." It's a gruesome, timed exercise totaling three hours and 45 minutes. When students click on the test, they're greeted with a non-interactive 54-page file. March2Success students must write their answers and transfer them into an online form at the end of the test that is then graded.
The SAT portion also includes an essay that students are expected to grade themselves. Upon completing the test, students are greeted with the self-scoring applet that asks questions about a student's essay.
Kaplan informs online visitors that they may share personal data with affiliated companies providing services "that we think might interest you." The company allows students to opt out if they do not wish their personal data to be shared with others.
Before signing up to use the March2Success site, students must read and agree to the privacy and security policy. Students do not have to provide personal information to the Army, but refusal to do so precludes the use of the instructional portion of the site. The Army will collect personally identifiable information from children as young as 13 without parental consent.
Pat Elder is a co-founder of the DC Antiwar Network (DAWN) and the Montgomery County (Maryland) Committee on Recruitment Issues.
Sources and additional information:
US Army Recruiting Command
DoD Military Personnel Accession Testing Programs:
School Recruiting Program Handbook:
Example of March2Success ad on school system Web site: www.6yearplan.spps.org/selfhelp.html
Test Preparation and Admissions, Kaplan, Inc:
Fred Kaplan on Slate.com:
Rand report on military testing:
This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (http://www.comdsd.org)