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Research Questions

  1. What are the intended effects of the high school AJROTC program?
  2. What is the relationship between AJROTC participation and high school outcomes (e.g., attendance, graduation, and STEM course taking)?
  3. What is the relationship between AJROTC participation and post–high school outcomes (e.g., college attendance, employment, and military service)?
  4. What is the relationship between JROTC participation and military career outcomes (e.g., first-term attrition, occupational specialty, and career length)?
  5. How do AJROTC instructors, administrators, and former cadets view the AJROTC program, its key challenges, and its contributions?

Despite the U.S. Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps' (AJROTC's) longevity, the scope of its reach, and the size of its budget, little is known about the associations between AJROTC participation and outcomes of importance to the country and military. To understand these effects, the authors reviewed U.S. Department of Defense, Army, and U.S. Army Cadet Command policies and regulations and created a logic model to identify desired outcomes. They conducted interviews with Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps (JROTC) and school stakeholders to determine important program characteristics, such as student experience, how the value of the program is communicated and perceived, and how program modernization efforts (including science, technology, engineering, and mathematics [STEM]-focused efforts) align with the curriculum. Using individual-level data on programs in Texas and Hawaii, the authors analyzed participant outcomes both in high school and beyond, with a focus on STEM-related outcomes.

The authors found that AJROTC serves more–economically disadvantaged schools and students, which makes simple benchmarks less informative. Once accounting for these differences, the authors found that cadets who participate in all four years of AJROTC are more likely to graduate, have higher rates of attendance, and have lower rates of suspension compared with matched peers. However, after graduating from high school, they are less likely to immediately enroll in college and more likely to plan to join the military. Former JROTC (any service) cadets who enlist in the Army are more likely to complete their first terms and more likely to pursue STEM occupational specialties.

Key Findings

  • During twelfth grade, cadets who have participated in all four years of the program, as compared with noncadets who also start twelfth grade on time, are more likely to graduate, have higher rates of attendance, and have lower rates of suspension.
  • Cadets who participate in AJROTC and their non-JROTC peers enroll in a similar number of high school STEM courses; AJROTC participation does not "crowd out" STEM electives.
  • AJROTC cadets are less likely to enroll in college upon exiting high school (regardless of the number of years of participation). Cadets who do enroll in college appear to be equally likely to persist to a second year compared to matched noncadets. Cadets who do not enroll in college are substantially more likely to plan to join the military relative to matched noncadets.
  • Former JROTC (any service) cadets who enlist in the Army active or reserve, as compared with soldiers who were not identified as former JROTC cadets, are more likely to complete their first terms, are more likely to pursue STEM occupational specialties, and have longer Army careers.
  • AJROTC serves more–economically disadvantaged schools and, within those schools, serves students who are more economically disadvantaged than their peers.

Recommendations

  • Support high-quality data collection that is aligned with AJROTC goals.
  • Communicate AJROTC's value by documenting the impact on participating students relative to peers using approaches that account for demographic and socioeconomic differences.
  • Maintain existing policy flexibility (in curriculum choices, extracurricular activities, and uniform wearing) that leverages instructors' local expertise.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within RAND Arroyo Center.

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