JROTC and STEM – Turbo Charging Mississippi’s Public Schools


Bigger Pie Forum | JROTC and STEM – Turbo Charging Mississippi’s Public Schools | Ashby Foote
One year ago, the Jackson Public Schools (JPS) narrowly avoided a take-over by the Mississippi Department of Education.  The result was a shakeup at the top of JPS.  But while new leadership works to reinvent and reinvigorate JPS, it is worth highlighting an old program within JPS that excels at the highest level – the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (U.S. Army JROTC). In the critical metric, graduation rates, JROTC achieved 95%, far surpassing JPS’ 70%, Mississippi’s 83% and the national high school rate of 84%.  That’s strong!  But it doesn’t stop there, JROTC cadets also outperform in daily attendance, grade point average, ACT scores and acceptance to institutions of higher learning.
Some history is helpful.  JROTC was founded in 1916 to provide a ready a pool of young men in the event America entered World War I.  In Mississippi, JROTC got its start at Jackson’s Central High School in 1936. Since the program’s early days of war preparation, the mission has shifted to citizenship, character development and successful living after high school.  There is no requirement for military duty.
JROTC’s dramatic outperformance year after year doesn’t happen by chance.  It takes a thorough plan, professionally executed with buy-in by both students and instructors.  If you ask Col. Willis, the JPS JROTC Director since 2004, he will point to the instructors as the biggest difference maker.
All instructors are retired military with 20 or more years of service.  After rigorous vetting and certification by the JROTC Cadet Command in Ft. Knox, instructor candidates are interviewed and hired at the local level.  While the Army is best known for its actions while in harm’s way, there are few institutions that have a bigger commitment to education and training.  An officer or

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