Lance T. Izumi - Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Izumi is Director of Education Studies for the Pacific
Research Institute and
Senior Fellow in California Studies. He is a leading expert in
education policy and the author of several major PRI studies.
[go to Izumi index]
Can Help Students Choose their Career...
[Lance T. Izumi] 5/4/05
Testing is critical in determining the academic
preparedness of students entering higher education. For instance,
the California State University uses placement exams to determine
if students require remedial English or math in order to have
the skills necessary to complete their coursework successfully.
Yet, no test is used to determine the skill levels of the many
more students who opt for vocational education at community colleges.
There is a test, however, that can fill that void and it would
be cost-free to students and colleges.
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is administered
by the Department of Defense. The test is called an aptitude
battery because it predicts one’s ability to learn skills
for different kinds of work. The ASVAB tests general academic
areas such as reading, math, and science, plus technical areas
such as mechanical comprehension and electronics information.
No items on military topics are included. The battery is based
on extensive research on the effectiveness of different types
of tests for predicting success in a wide range of jobs.
Based on results, a student could compare his or her skills
with the requirements of the career or occupation in which he
or she is interested. If a student is deficient in a skill area,
the test informs the student of the additional training needed.
Nationwide, 900,000 students at 14,000 schools take the ASVAB
annually. The potential benefit of administering the ASVAB at
community colleges is great.
Currently, community colleges use vocational tests, such as
the Myers-Briggs exam, that merely measure a person’s interests
and preferences, not their aptitude for a job or career. The
ASVAB, therefore, would fill an important informational vacuum
for students and counselors. It would give better career guidance
to students and guarantee that they take the right coursework
while in college.
The cost of the test is paid by the Defense Department. Students
pay nothing, as opposed to Myers-Briggs and others that charge
a fee, while local colleges and the state incur no administration
costs. Some community colleges are beginning to look seriously
at the ASVAB.
San Joaquin Delta College will be giving the ASVAB in the near
future. Counselors there say a vocational education aptitude
test is vitally needed. Few entering students know what they
want to do. Many also have an unrealistic view of occupations
and little idea of the skills actually needed for those jobs.
Since the test is without cost, it helps open the job world to
students of all incomes. And fears of the ASVAB’s military
connection are baseless.
There’s also no obligation for any student who takes the
test to enlist in the military. The military only asks for the
opportunity to contact the student by telephone or mail about
the option of a military career. If the student isn’t interested,
there’s no further contact.
According to California's Legislative Analyst, “research
shows very high wage returns to students who graduate from community
college vocational programs.” The ASVAB can help students
choose the career that is right for them, take the right courses,
and graduate from a vocational program that makes their career
a reality. Indeed, a major study on ASVAB concluded that the
test contained “highly sensitive predictors of training
and job performance for all applicant groups.”
The ASVAB should, therefore, be considered seriously in any
future vocational education reform effort. CRO
2005 Pacific Research Institute