Following a May, 2008 letter from Public Advocates that threatened a lawsuit if the San Francisco Unified School District continued to award credit for PE, the SFUSD made its move (The state has declared that local school districts can determine whether or not to award PE credit for JROTC decide, and some cities continue to do so.). With students unable to fit both PE and JROTC in their schedules, the number of enrolled students sank from about 1,600 in the 2007-2008 school year to just 500 last year.
The school district decided to preserve the program last spring, and in June, opined that while JROTC wouldn't fulfill PE credit, the JROTC students could get credit by completing an independent study program outside of school hours.
But do we honestly trust kids to be on the honor system to report their own physical activity?
We had a competition in grade school to see which PE class could walk the most miles outside of school, which we traced on a map of the United States. It wasn't long until I was having my mother sign off on all those "miles" I'd walked at the mall. That was third grade! High-schoolers are even more cunning.
"There's going to have to be a certain amount of trust and integrity in this because it's not as easy as saying he's in my class, I see him running," says Balboa High School JROTC instructor Gerry Paratore.
The details of the independent study program are still being worked out by the district's curriculum department as the clock ticks down until the school year begins. But Paratore says there will have to be some sort of checking in on the kids -- such as testing their base-line level of fitness and then testing again to see how they've improved. Also, they'll have to get signatures from instructors, coaches, or parents to certify they've done what they claimed they have.
The kids will have to complete training in eight areas required by state PE standards: dance and rhythm, fitness training, individual sports and dual sports, gymnastics and tumbling, team sports, aquatics, combatives, and mechanics of body movement.
Instructors plan to visit PE classes in the first weeks of classes to educate students of the independent study option so they can enroll in JROTC. Paratore says team sports, pumping iron at the gym, martial arts, or even competing on a JROTC drill team could fulfill the various requirements: "It gives them a ton of flexibility. I think it's gonna give us an opportunity to rebuild the program."
So play it honest, kids. And get off your couch.