Mr. Kearney shows a lot of potential. The novella has a lot of smoothly-written action and plausible emotions. Gripping and surprising.
A few suggestions:
*Possible spoiler warnings*
World-building: Keep deepening this and maybe have a friend read the work from that perspective. While overall well-done, I wasn't sure if this system was entirely plausible/stable. Usually one would expect systems to be manipulated by the already rich. It seemed the nation was committed to more of a fair system for philosophical reasons, but philosophical commitment tends to go out the window when it comes to one's children and their success in life. Unless the philosophy is rooted in a powerful force like religion or some past national trauma (like French Revolution) - if so, give us hints about that. It's a short work but a few words can do a lot.
Along these lines, it wasn't clear if the events of the story were supposed to be a dramatic departure from past tests, and if so, why. If this sort of thing happened all the time, why wouldn't people rebel? There was an army but not a clear repressive mechanism.
Character development: The main character's personality had multiple facets and experienced change. But his end-state is somewhat unresolved, and readers' engagement might be greater if we were given a little more guidance about what had happened to him internally as an *ultimate* result of his experience. He started the story feeling patriotic and seems to end the story that way. But has his naive patriotism crystallized into a more-sinister commitment to fascism? Or have seeds of doubt been planted, that might bloom later? Even if this ends up as a stand-alone story, give us a hint on where you might see the story going. We'll remember the emotion at the end, making us want to read more of your work.
*End spoiler warnings*
Best of luck, keep up the good work.