Schools may raise standard for sports New committee eyes 2.0 GPA and no F's for student eligibility

December 22, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

Carroll schools want to raise the bar for athletes, but not on the field. A committee is writing a proposal to increase the academic standards that qualify students for sports and other extracurricular activities.

The rules would apply to all extracurricular activities, whether it's lacrosse or Latin Club, but athletes would be the largest group affected.

Several counties have increased their standards in the past few years, including Anne Arundel and Baltimore. Howard County is among the strictest, last year changing its policy to allow no F's and require a minimum grade-point average of 2.0 out of a possible 4.0.

Howard County's change last spring prompted Sherri-Le Bream, principal at Westminster High School, to re-examine the Carroll standards. A committee was formed in the fall.

"Being able to participate in extracurricular activities is an important part of school, but at the same time, we want standards," said Bream, chairwoman of the committee.

Currently, students are allowed to fail one course and still be eligible for extracurricular activities. At the end of each nine-week marking period, a list of students with two or more F's goes to coaches and teachers. Students on the list can't participate until their grades are raised on their next report card.

But the committee of students, teachers and administrators is looking at a policy that would allow no F's. That would increase the number of ineligible students, but officials could not say how many would be affected.

The Carroll County Student Government Association voted to recommend that the standard be like Howard County's, with a minimum 2.0 GPA and no F's, said Linnea Pagulayan, a Westminster High School senior, student representative to the school board, and field hockey standout. She also is on the committee with Bream.

Although student government leaders want to beef up the policy, most of them are not likely to be affected.

"You have a lot of students in student government who never struggle with grades," Linnea said. "Having teachers on the committee, they know students who struggle more."

Said Bream: "We would like to move to a 2.0 minimum, but not the first year. There's a period of adjustment. You don't want to shake up everything at once."

Carroll high school principals were close to tightening the eligibility requirements one year ago but decided not to spring the change on students while they adjusted to a new schedule -- three high schools this year switched to a four-period day with fewer, longer class periods, said Peter B. McDowell, director of secondary schools. The three are Westminster, Francis Scott Key and South Carroll high schools.

The four-period day so far has resulted in higher grades -- more students are on the honor roll, more are getting straight A's, and fewer are getting the two F's that would exclude them from extracurricular activities. The schools have no data on the number of students with only one F.

The committee could submit a proposal to the Carroll County school board as early as February, Bream said.

In the meantime, committee members are working out some fine points.

For example, the policy might have some provision for students to regain their eligibility in the middle of a grading period.

If a student gets an F in chemistry in the first marking period in November but brings her grades up in time for the interim report four weeks later, she could regain eligibility for the basketball team when the season starts in December. Otherwise, she would have to wait another five weeks, until the end of the grading period, to become eligible again.

Another possibility is to require a student who withdraws from a class after a certain date to receive an F.

"We don't want students to drop courses so they can remain eligible," Bream said.

The chance to play sports or be in a club is sometimes the one thing that keeps a marginal student motivated, McDowell said.

"Extracurricular activities are the icing on the cake," McDowell said. "For some students, that is what they point for, that's what helps them do well in school."

But it would also be misleading to students and parents if the standards for playing sports were too low, Bream said.

She said the higher standards would better prepare students for the National Collegiate Athletic Association standards if they want to play college sports.

The NCAA, in the past few years, has increased its academic standards for players. Not only do they have to meet minimum scores on the Scholastic Assessment Test and keep their grades up, but they have to take a core of academic courses.

Westminster High School plans an evening in February to acquaint parents with the NCAA standards.

Bream and McDowell emphasized that in most cases, students involved in extracurricular activities perform better in the classroom than those who are not, because they learn to manage their time and are more involved in school life.

In Howard County, the higher requirements are still controversial and have forced three members off the Oakland Mills High School wrestling team.

However, only a handful of students countywide have been affected, and some students have brought up their grades, Howard school officials said.

Pub Date: 12/22/96

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