Butte MEPS, Mont. –
In 1999, the Montana National Guard established the Montana Youth Challenge Academy (MYCA) to aide teens who dropped out of high school or weren’t on track to graduate. MYCA works with participants for one year after they graduate from a residential phase to help with college or trade school enrollment or to join the military. They also use the ASVAB Career Exploration Program to learn about their individual skills and interests.
This August, the Challenge Academy decided to leave behind the old days of filling in scantron bubble sheets and embrace the new computer based ASVAB CEP iCAT test. After more than two decades of administering pencil and paper tests, lead MYCA Academic Counselor Ben Stewart decided it was time to make the transition to the adaptive test, meaning how a student responds to a question determines the complexity of the next question.
“I was a little hesitant to at first,” said Stewart. “It was tough to move on from the old way of testing, but the transition was incredibly smooth. We were able to test all 116 cadets in this class with no issues, so it was a very successful experience.”
The cadets echoed Mr. Stewart’s sentiments. “I felt like I was able to relax more by taking the test on the computer. It was definitely less stressful than taking a paper test,” said Cadet Merringer. Cadet Clairmont added, “I get distracted easily when I’m taking a pencil and paper test, doing it on the computer helps me stay focused.” Cadet Roberts had a different point of view, “I liked that everything was right there in front of me. I could just click on the answer and didn’t have to move from my book to the answer sheet.”
The success at MYCA is a big step towards the Butte MEPS achieving its internal goal of 100% computer-based testing for all students who do not receive accommodations.
“Montana has moved to mandatory computer-based ACT and SAT testing this year, and we are using this mandate as a vehicle to further expand our iCAT testing program,” said Jeff Poulton, Butte MEPS ASVAB CEP program manager. “In order to remain relevant, the ASVAB needs to change with the times as well. The iCAT requires less resources, reduces solid waste and most importantly it gets the kids back into their classrooms faster. It’s 2023, these kids have grown up using technology, they shouldn’t be using lapboards and filling in bubble sheets during a 3.5-hour long test. It’s my job to make sure our program evolves with the times.”
ASVAB testing wasn’t the only event happening at Montana Youth Challenge that day. While Poulton and test coordinator Laurie Payne handled the testing, the Butte MEPS commander and SEA were given a tour of the MYCA facilities and had the opportunity to interact and take questions from the cadets. The result was the further strengthening of our relationship with one of our most important community partners.