High school cadets will be marching to the tune of standards-based school initiatives beginning in the fall.
The Army Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps will unveil a new curriculum that is linked to voluntary national standards for what students should know and be able to do. JROTC officials believe the changes will give school administrators the opportunity to use courses from the program to fulfill graduation requirements set by state and local authorities.
“What we want to do is support whatever is important in that school or school district,” said Donna M. Rice, the chief of operations, education, and training for the JROTC program, based at Fort Monroe near Hampton, Va.
The revised curriculum is also intended to give students an incentive to participate in the program. As states have raised the number of courses needed for high school graduation, students have been reluctant to enroll in the program that gives students an introduction to life in the military, according to Ms. Rice.
She said the new curriculum would show state officials and school administrators that students who complete portions of the JROTC program can use their experience to satisfy graduation requirements in health, physical education, or other subjects.
The arrangement will make the U.S. Department of Defense program attractive to students and principals, Ms. Rice predicted. “If they can get substitute credit [in JROTC], it can help with overcrowding in other classrooms.”
The Army JROTC operates in 1,500 high schools and enrolls more than 250,000 students. Its curriculum covers a wide range of topics, from U.S. history and government to leadership to wellness. Although JROTC cadets incur no obligation for military service, some students enroll in ROTC programs in college or enlist in the military after graduation.
The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps run JROTC programs that emphasize the necessary skills specific to their services. The Navy and Marines jointly operate their programs. Instructors—retired military officers and enlisted personnel hired by school districts—also run extracurricular activities that involve drill teams and marksmanship. The Defense Department pays for portions of the program.
JROTC students traditionally have received credit, but those courses did not fulfill state-mandated graduation requirements.
The new Army curriculum is linked to national standards in several subjects. Many states used those documents as a starting point when writing their own standards. As a result, the new JROTC curriculum overlaps with much of what states are requiring.
Ms. Rice said she doesn’t expect that the Army curriculum will replace core courses such as American history, but she suggested that its emphasis on health and fitness could satisfy graduation requirements in those areas.
In addition, a new unit on personal finance is linked to voluntary national standards on economics, meaning it has enough academic content for some states to consider it for any course in economics that might be required for graduation.
The Army hired a contractor to write a series of lesson plans, assessments, and other curricular materials that will help instructors prepare courses designed to meet the needs of local high schools, Ms. Rice said.
But Army officials may face an uphill battle before a JROTC course will be counted toward graduation, according to Rolf K. Blank, the director of education indicators at the Council of Chief State School Officers, based in Washington. In recent years, states have been adding courses required for graduation and have been specific about what they need to cover.
“My guess is that states are going to have to review these [courses] very carefully,” said Mr. Blank. “It doesn’t seem to me that it’s a time when a lot of new flexibility is being brought in, but it’s possible that it could work.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 24, 2002 edition of Education Week as JROTC to Roll Out Standards-Based Curriculum