By Julia Bobick, USARECNovember 1, 2011
FORT KNOX, Ky., Nov. 1, 2011 -- "March 2 Success" is a recruiter's number-one education outreach tool to demonstrate the Army's commitment to helping youth succeed in school and in life -- regardless of their enlistment intent.
The free online test preparation program has been called the ideal "icebreaker" for conversations with educators, an "attention getter" at conferences, and a non-threatening "door-opener" for recruiters to introduce themselves and the program to schools.
Since 2003, nearly 1.1 million people have registered in March 2 Success, and the program continues to average about 14,000 new registrants every month. In the past year nearly 62,000 users were referred to the program by an educator, counselor or teacher, and that number is destined to grow significantly as more schools and districts facing budget cuts look to the free program as their standardized test preparation solution -- and more.
Countless high schools and districts across the country promote and link to March 2 Success on their websites; countless more use it to prepare students for state assessment tests and college entrance exams, and in some cases have dedicated computers.
The self-paced program developed by the Army, with content designed by e-learning companies Peterson's and Educational Options, is available online, 24/7, for high school freshmen and above, in both English and Spanish.
"This is the best test preparation program I have run across; it can enhance the SAT preparation class we now offer students here, and it's free," said Liza Tuatoo, American Samoa Department of Education Program director for guidance and counseling.
Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion Commander Lt. Col. Ty Bonner briefed the merits of the program in his area during the USAREC deputy commanding general's battalion commander training in September. During a visit with a principal, Bonner said he learned the small Texas school was getting ready to spend $1,000 per student for an SAT-preparation course -- for all its seniors.
By introducing them to March 2 Success, he was able to save the school that money, and the school ended up making the program available in all its classrooms. He said other larger schools in his area are saving thousands of dollars a year by using this program.
Pottsville, Ark., high school teacher Cecilia Gray said many of her students use March 2 Success, as well as her own daughters, who each improved her ACT score three points through the program.
In addition to the test preparation and skill-building activities, the program also includes resources to assist students with college financial planning and admissions.
"In my view, March 2 Success is the major educational resource we provide," said Indianapolis Recruiting Battalion Education Services Specialist Eileen Van Kavelaar. "It can be incorporated into presentations for educators, students, parents and community service organizations. It has allowed me to be a presenter and not just an exhibitor at educator conferences."
The Indiana State Department of Education produced a short video featuring Van Kavelaar and Geneva Rose Fry, an Indiana adult education teacher, who walk individuals through the program from initial registration to an overview of the various courses and flashcards. The video, produced in 2009, is still promoted through Indiana DOE communication channels and hosted on its website for anyone to view at http://media.doe.in.gov/sservices/March2success.html.
"This is one of the best-kept secrets around and it's a shame, because it's free and it's a good addition to the education we're already providing our students," Fry says in the video overview.
A community partner in Jackson, Miss., is using the program as part of a mobile learning unit designed to increase the public school district's reach outside the classroom.
"My organization thrives on collaboration with other organizations," said Gus McCoy, the president of the non-profit Jackson Metro Youth Initiative, who also serves as chairman of the Army Grassroots Advisory Board in Jackson. "Part of our mission involves having youth plan their careers and prepare themselves for college or whatever their future is supposed to be."
Harrisburg Recruiting Battalion ESS Mark Mazzarella said his battalion promotes it as a tool for adult learners who need refresher training, and has received great feedback from continuing education representatives from across Pennsylvania. Participants in Penn State's Hendrick Best Practices for Adult Learners Conference, where Mazarella presented a March 2 Success session, said the program can help reduce returning students' anxiety by enabling them to test themselves and brush up on skills before classes start.
"March 2 Success doesn't just prepare my students for tests, it facilitates real skill development -- particularly in the area of mathematics, where most students struggle," said Tim Morgan, career counselor at State College Area High School, Pa.
Bonner added that some universities and ROTC departments in his battalion area use the program for undergraduates, as well.
Recruiters, of course, offer March 2 Success to help applicants and future Soldiers raise their Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores. It's the test-prep tool Department of Defense authorizes for use in recruiting stations.
"The innovative uses for March 2 Success are only limited by your imagination," said Tony Castillo, Recruiting Command's March 2 Success program manager.
Castillo, who was an education services specialist in Texas, said one of his school teachers used the March 2 Success verbal flashcards in her English as a Second Language classes. The interactive online format with words spelled on the screen combined with the audio pronunciation and written definition make it ideal for learning the language.
"What a great way to use the program. I had never before thought of using the program in that way," he said, adding that creative teachers are always finding new ways to use available programs and resources to help their students succeed. "This is just one example of the many innovative uses out there."
Castillo said there is also a tracking mechanism educators and counselors can use to chart their students' progress in the course. Educators can log in and see all their students who are registered and how each of them is doing.
"One of my favorite aspects of March 2 Success is that my students can access the program from anywhere and I can monitor their progress -- without having to be right there checking their work every step of the way," said Joshua Kuster, Line Mountain High School, Pa., mathematics teacher.
Parents have the same capability to track their children's progress and provide help where needed.
The program can also save families unnecessary expenses. As an example, if a student were to go to a education center in Oklahoma City to practice and study for the ACT/SAT, Bonner said it would cost nearly $3,000 for 40 hours of training -- the approximate time to go through March 2 Success from start to finish.
"It is important to inform parents [about March 2 Success, especially those] who may be looking at paying for similar programs on their own in this time of tighter home budgets," he said.
Neither parents nor teachers should feel any apprehension in recommending March 2 Success. It is not a recruiting tool.
Though an Army-sponsored program, nowhere within the program is a student asked to provide information to or request information from recruiters. Castillo said registration and usage data is all USAREC tracks in an effort to measure effectiveness and validate continued resourcing for the program, which is funded through fiscal year 2012. The command is exploring options to continue funding the program beyond this fiscal year.