When Staff Sgt. Aaron Overstreet beat her score by three points in September, both he and BSEP instructor Lola Best were speechless.
“My reaction was, ‘I’m not seeing this correctly’ because I’ve been told a 144 was perfect,” said Best. “Here, I’m looking at a 147.”
Best said when she got over the initial shock of Overstreet’s achievement, she talked it over with Rella Braxton. As chief of Army Continuing Education System at Fort Knox, Braxton was left puzzled as well. So, she reached out to the source of the original messaging that declared 144 to be perfect: Army University.
They added more complicated layers to the mystery.
“Defense Manpower Data Center representatives consulted psychometricians who indicated that a theoretical maximum of 205 can be earned as a GT score, although very improbable,” said Braxton. “The experts indicated that Staff Sgt. Overstreet’s GT score of 147 was extraordinarily rare.”
According to the psychometricians, the 205 maximum is based on two subtest scores: verbal ability, or VE, which includes math knowledge; and arithmetic reasoning, or AR.
Overstreet, an observer, controller/trainer at 1st Battalion, 409th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 4th Cavalry Multifunctional Training Brigade, originally went to the education center in search of a better score than the 108 he received upon entry into the military.
“I’m looking at different options,” said Overstreet. “I just hit my 10-year mark in the Army, so I’m looking at either going to [Army Officer Candidate School] or Warrant Officer [Candidate School] – just trying to open the doors to different opportunities in the Army.”
He said he would have been happy with anything over 110.
“I was baffled,” said Overstreet. “I didn’t expect to get a score that high. I was still struggling with stuff right up to the end.”
Overstreet made the decision to participate in BSEP on a Thursday, knowing the next class was set to begin on the Monday.
“My chain of command was awesome in supporting me, and Ms. Best was awesome in letting me be her only student in the afternoon class,” said Overstreet. “That helped a lot.”
With a bachelor’s degree in business management, math came easy to Overstreet. Words, not so much.
“I know what words mean when people say them, but a lot of times when I see them on paper, I don’t find it easy to understand them,” he said. “They were the hardest part of learning.”
Best said she was confident he would score high, even into the 140s.
Braxton said she was confident in Best’s ability to get him to a place where he would score his very best.
“Lola has an excellent track record,” Braxton said. “Right now, the BSEP passing rate is 80%. Of those who scored 110 or higher, 40% scored 120-129 and 20% scored 130-plus. Her average gain is 22 points per class; that goes up with each class.”
The reasons for taking the BSEP class are as varied as the students, according to Best. While many in the beginning were looking to go warrant, now their reasons include becoming a commissioned officer or reclassifying to other jobs, especially in the medical field.
Overstreet said his next step is to decide which future path to pursue.
“Everybody’s ecstatic for me, waiting to see what I do for the next step of my career,” said Overstreet, who won’t make the decision until he first talks with his wife.
Best said in the last year she has seen several students achieve tremendous success in the six classes she has led. Hackley still has the record for the greatest improvement – 57 points – but now that perfection has improved, Best said she wouldn’t be surprised if that perfecter mark is soon toppled.