Critics say the military is behind the times and point to the growth on online instruction at all levels of education.

Students graduating from the growing ranks of virtual high schools are running into a hurdle if their goal is to join the military: The Pentagon doesn’t want many recruits with non-traditional diplomas.

Many would-be soldiers like Ryker Packard, 17, of Fassett, Pa., say they weren’t aware the armed services have a policy of not taking more than 10 percent of recruits with a non-traditional high school diploma. Critics, including some in Congress, say the military is behind the times and point to the growth on online instruction at all levels of education, including college degrees.

“It just grinds my gears,” said Packard, who wants to become an Army diesel mechanic after graduating from Pennsylvania’s Agora Cyber Charter School in June.

Packard said his conversation with an Army recruiter came to a brusque end after he told him he was due to graduate from a virtual school. “He just wouldn’t talk to me,” said Packard.

Packard’s mom, Sherri, said her son switched to online instruction after floundering in a geometry course at his brick-and-mortar school. Once he got the attention of online teachers, his grades improved, she said.

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Packard said her son’s school is fully accredited by the state of Pennsylvania, which requires students to pass the same tests and meet the same curriculum requirements as those in traditional schools.

“It’s part of the public school system,” said Sherri Packard, 43. “It’s considered one of the best in the state.”