Putting the emphasis on school work One 'F' and you can't play: Howard schools right to put "extra" back in extracurricular.

July 08, 1996

EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITIES have an established role in scholastic life. Athletics, student government and orchestra all supplement instruction and round out a young person's school experience.

However, their place in education never was meant to predominate. Unfortunately, non-academic functions have become more important than the classroom for students who should be more concerned with improving their minds and their chances of succeeding in the outside world than with becoming the next Michael Jordan or Cal Ripken Jr.

That is why the Howard County public school system should be applauded for taking a bold step toward ensuring that class work comes first. Its administrators have moved to impose the toughest academic standards in the Baltimore region for participants in extracurricular endeavors. Their no-nonsense policy is in line with the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Proposition 48 for student-athletes.

Howard's proposed policy is pleasingly simple -- pass all courses and maintain a 2.0 grade-point average or lose eligibility for extracurricular activities. This sends an unequivocal message to students: Make classwork a higher priority or forget about the frills. If approved by the school board next month, the tough stance would prohibit students from regaining eligibility in summer school. Also, athletes would not be allowed to return to teams in midseason.

Other districts should seriously consider following Howard's lead. Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Carroll counties all allow students in extracurricular activities to fail one course, although only Anne Arundel requires a 2.0 grade-point average. Harford students can fail classes too, but must pass at least five classes BTC each marking period to retain eligibility. Baltimore City sets the bar low, allowing two failures.

Howard coaches and a band director have expressed concern that athletes or musicians who struggle with some studies might stop trying altogether. But perhaps the policy will have the opposite effect. It is not as though students are being asked to earn all As and Bs, but they should be expected to put as much effort into avoiding failure in a class as they do on a playing field. This policy drives home the reality that success in school work is the real key to their future livelihood.

Pub Date: 7/08/96

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