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From Draft NOtices, July-September 2008

JROTC Instructors Are Not Trained as Teachers

— Mernie Aste

Following a recent vote by the San Francisco School Board, students in San Francisco can no longer get physicaleducation credit for the military’s JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps). The San Francisco Chronicle states, “The 4-1 vote will likely cripple the 90-year-old military education program that serves 1,200 students because most use it to satisfy their PE requirement.” Cadets currently in JROTC attended the meeting in uniforms to show their support for the program. San Francisco School Board member Norman Yee was quoted as saying, “This is an emotional issue for many people.”

Within that same month, the Long Beach Board of Education unanimously decided to no longer count JROTC (along with dance, drill team and marching band) toward meeting P.E. graduation requirements; while the California Department of Education has required that P.E. classes address all state standards and be taught by teachers with P.E. credentials.

These developments highlight an issue that has been debated recently among educators. The professional standards for teachers have gotten increasingly demanding, but those who teach JROTC classes in California schools have been exempted. California’s Revised State Plan for No Child Left Behind states: “Recruiting and developing highly qualified teachers and administrators is the most important investment of resources that local, state, business, and community leaders can make in education.” Yet JROTC staff are not held to the Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) standards defined on the U.S. Department of Education website:

Highly Qualified Teachers: To be deemed highly qualified, teachers must have: 1) a bachelor's degree, 2) full state certification or licensure, and 3) prove that they know each subject they teach.

Regarding the San Francisco School Board’s decision to discontinue P.E. credit for JROTC classes, Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Online Daily, noted the following:

Recent state legislation requires all gym teachers to have proper teaching credentials, which JROTC instructors do not have. State Superintendent Jack O’Connell has expressed concern that JROTC does not satisfy the state requirement, because its course content is designed by the military. Public Advocates, a non-profit law firm, plans to sue the School District if they do not remove the P.E. credit for JROTC -- a lawsuit that the School District would almost certainly lose.

Some of the arguments regarding P.E. credit for JROTC classes refer to the standards from the California State framework for Physical Education, but this doesn’t take into account the pedagogical aspects of teacher preparation. Credentialed teachers spend at least a year learning the processes of making course content comprehensible to English Language Learners and students with a range of learning styles and disabilities. So even if the lessons are based on the same standards, JROTC instructors do not have the theoretical constructs available to them that the state of California has developed as necessary to teach the students in our schools.

All teachers in California schools must demonstrate competency in the learning needs of English Language Learners, including Physical Education teachers, but JROTC teachers have no such requirements. The requirement must be fulfilled either by examination or completing college course work: 12 upper-division or graduate semester units, 18 upper division quarter units, or — if any lower-division units are being used to qualify — a total of 24 semester units or 36 quarter units are required. While all the other teachers are taking coursework in the subject area and methods classes to prepare them to communicate that subject matter to their students, there is no such preparation for the JROTC teachers that is required. Under the “Special Subject” credential requirements, JROTC instructors can get their credential with a high school diploma or a GED.

Pre-school, elementary school and high school teachers all must take several courses in Linguistics, English Language Development and Specially Designed Academic Instruction in English. Instead of educators or other experts researching successful and unsuccessful instructional practices for English learners, for JROTC the military determines the criteria for teaching the diversity of students now attending our public schools. The student population is far from homogeneous: more than 100 different languages are spoken at home, students have a wide range of economic resources and needs, and many have learning, developmental, psychiatric, physical and other disabilities.

The Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the state office that oversees the quality control of teachers in California, has designated “Reserve Officer Training Corps” as a “Special Subject,” along with Driver Education and Aviation Flight and Ground Instruction. In some schools, JROTC is not only sold as a way to fulfill one’s Physical Education credits, it also claims to be a college prep course. Neither Driver Education nor Aviation classes make such claims.

Even though pink slips are being distributed to other teachers because of anticipated statewide budget cuts in education, money has continued to flow to contribute to the paychecks of JROTC instructors. We should all be demanding to know why.

Mernie Aste teaches in the College of Education at San Diego State University.

Information sources:

California’s Revised State Plan for No Child Left Behind: Highly Qualified Teacher,

Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Online Daily, June 27, 2008,

The U.S. Department of Education website on Highly Qualified Teachers,

The San Francisco Chronicle,

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (


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