A bill that would have made it harder for Indiana students to use a military exam to graduate from high school was substantially weakened by a Senate committee Wednesday. Some policymakers criticized the growing use of the test because it does not help students go to college or get jobs outside the military.
Lawmakers amended the bill to create a new requirement that any student who uses a score on the military test to graduate must also submit a form that affirms their intent to enlist in the military.
The Indiana State Board of Education must also review and update guidance about using the exam, called the ASVAB Career Exploration Program, to graduate. And schools may not require students to use a particular qualification — including the military exam — to graduate.
“We're struggling with, as we heard in this committee, some of the nuances about let's just use the word rigor and how things are coming out specifically looking at the students,” said Sen. Jeff Raatz (R-Richmond), chair of the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development.
An earlier version of the House Bill 1635, which was approved by the Indiana House in February, would have required students to enlist in the military in order to use the ASVAB as a graduation qualification.
New Indiana graduation rules, which go into full effect this year, require students to show they are ready for college or participated in career training. They can show they are prepared in several ways, including earning a score on the SAT that is considered “college ready” or taking a series of career training courses.
The ASVAB is another way to qualify. It has proven unexpectedly popular. WFYI obtained state data that shows nearly 20 percent of all graduates relied on the test in 2021, the latest available year.
Students can use the ASVAB to graduate if they earn a high enough score to be eligible for enlistment. But the pathway has a reputation for being easier than some others, and many students who use it to graduate do not enlist.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for a vote.