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Help isle students pass muster

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Hawaii public school officials place importance on preparing young people for college, as they should, but that priority must also include students not bound for college. That means other viable means to earn a living, such as trade classes or the military. Alas, in the latter case, a study released this week indicates that Hawaii, more than any other state, is failing to prepare young adults for military service, a popular career choice.

The national report by the Education Trust found that 23 percent of recent high school graduates interested in joining the Army fail to score high enough on entrance tests. In Hawaii, 38.3 percent flunk the test. Only two other states — Mississippi and Louisiana — and the District of Columbia had failure rates above 30 percent.

The poor grades say much about new high school graduates’ degree of qualification for promising entry jobs in the private sector.

Garrett Toguchi, chairman of Hawaii’s Board of Education, says the report is "unclear whether applicants came from public or private school, whether they were Hawaii residents or how long they attended school in Hawaii, if at all."

Of course, that can pertain to any state, and Toguchi’s suggestion of such a sheer unlikelihood in Hawaii is lame.

The report is consistent with last year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, which showed that the public schools’ fourth- and eighth-grade students continued to trail mainland peers in math.

The Education Trust’s report is based on tests taken by 350,000 high school graduates ages 17-20 who applied for entry into the Army from 2004 through 2009 at military processing stations and are otherwise eligible to serve.

The scores measured by the Pentagon and used in the report focus on four areas: mathematic knowledge, math reasoning, vocabulary and reading comprehension. Those who enter correct answers to 31 percent of the questions can join the Army. Other armed services require minimum scores ranging from 35 to 45 percent.

Joining the military is crucial for many young people, especially those from lower-income families. Ineligibility to join the military is devastating for those who rely on it for a career, an opportunity to learn skills to be applied in the private sector, or as the only way they can afford college — through the GI Bill.

The new report contains no information about socioeconomic status, but the preponderance of children from those families can be assumed to be among those who failed to qualify for the military.

Hawaii’s state Department of Education is examining the report, and Toguchi acknowledges that its data "reaffirm a need for school systems here and nationwide to enhance supports for struggling students, as well as those who don’t have the option to attend college upon graduation."

Especially in Hawaii.


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