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
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
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
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
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
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)