UNDERNEWS

Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

September 2, 2009

BLOWING THE MYTH OF ARNE DUNCAN

Andy Kroll, Mother Jones - When Arne Duncan stepped down as the head of the Chicago Public Schools to become the secretary of education in January, the school district he left behind had little to brag about. While Duncan served as its chief executive officer, CPS received mostly average or below average rankings in "The Nation's Report Card," a Department of Education assessment of the country's largest urban school districts. Its high school graduation rates lingered at around 50 percent, well short of the national average of 70 percent. And since 2004, CPS has failed as a district to meet No Child Left Behind's "adequate yearly progress" standards. In one area, however, Chicago's schools stood out: In large part to Duncan's efforts, they were-and remain-the most militarized in America.

Nearly 10,500 of Chicago's 203,000 sixth- through twelfth-graders participate in some kind of military program on campus, from joining the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps to enrolling in Pentagon-sponsored JROTC academies. As the district's CEO (and previously as deputy chief of staff to his predecessor, Paul Vallas), Duncan oversaw the controversial move to bring full-fledged military academies to the Windy City. The district's first, the Chicago Military Academy at Bronzeville, opened in 1999, and three more followed during Duncan's tenure. Today, Chicago has six military high schools run by a branch of the armed services. Six smaller military academies share buildings with existing high schools. Nearly three dozen JROTC programs exist in regular high schools, where students attend a daily JROTC class and wear uniforms to school one day a week. And at the middle school level, there is a JROTC program for sixth, seventh- and eighth-graders.

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