New Standards Raise New Questions ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

March 01, 1993

Now that Anne Arundel County's 2.0 grade point average requirement for after-school activities has had a chance to work for a semester, there's no doubt that the Board of Education did the right thing in instituting it. Sports programs are managing just fine, and students are getting the message that studies must come first.

Granted, not all students are working harder than they were before; some are forgoing after-school activities rather than bring up their grades. That is a choice parents and teachers can only do so much to discourage. At least now, such students realize that basketball is a privilege, not a right.

The first stages of the new GPA standard provide plenty of food for thought for school officials.

Even after the board decided to allow one failing grade per term, more than 5,100 children -- 29 percent of the high school population -- are ineligible. Sports aside, that is too many kids doing too poorly. The high numbers no doubt reflect that many students (like many adults) try to get away with the least possible effort. They haven't had time to raise their standards. We should see improvement next year.

Interestingly, some coaches noted that students' grades are at their worst during the off-season; once the season starts, students are monitored and tutored to make sure they stay eligible.

In this way, sports actually seem to be helping some kids make the grade. The question is, are we paying enough attention to struggling students when extra activities are not an issue?

Is extra help being offered as vigilantly for those with no interest in sports as it is for those who are candidates for a team?

By and large, most coaches seem to be going the extra mile to encourage athletes to get the assistance they need. But there are exceptions. One boy who wanted to bring up his grades was cut from the team before he had a chance.

Some coaches will find it tempting to eliminate such students to avoid the potential headache of having them lose eligibility again. But it's hardly fair to deny them an opportunity to show they can do what it takes.

That could make some students wonder, "Why try at all?" -- just the opposite of what a reasonable GPA standard like this should do.

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