More than a third of Anne Arundel County high school students are barred from extracurricular activities because their most recent report card grades are too low -- a statistic that doesn't bother county educators as much as it does some school board members.
"It's not been an issue raised among any of the school principals, because the statistics are essentially the same as they've been for many years," Kenneth E. Nichols, a county director of instruction, said yesterday. "Two-thirds are above the 2.0 [grade point average]. I think that's very positive."
Joseph Foster, president of the Anne Arundel County school board, disagreed, saying, "That is very sad, isn't it? There is a philosophy that it is OK to fail. Well, it is not."
Because of a countywide policy requiring a grade point average of at least 2.0 out of a possible 4.0 to participate in extracurricular activities, about 6,000 of the county's 17,000 high school students are barred from playing sports, cheerleading, being in the band and taking part in other clubs.
For the second marking period of this school year, 34.6 percent of the county's high school students had grade point averages TC below 2.0, according to school system data obtained by The Sun.
A disproportionately high percentage of male, black and Hispanic students have grades that, in county school parlance, make them "academically ineligible" for extracurricular activities: 50 percent of black students and 40 percent of Hispanic students are below 2.0, compared with 31 percent of white students and 19 percent of Asian-American students, according to the data.
And boys are more likely than girls to be ineligible. Forty-two percent of boys and 28 percent of girls had sub-par grades.
Nichols said the schools are trying to remedy the racial imbalance by matching poorly performing students with those making better grades. "We have multicultural efforts going on," he said. "All kinds of efforts we have under way to try to combat this, but it doesn't always make a difference."
He said he wasn't sure why boys were not doing as well as girls but speculated that "it's not real cool to be a good student if you're male, but if you're female, it's sort of expected."
Annapolis Senior High School had the highest proportion of students barred from after-school activities -- 43 percent of the school's 1,532 students -- in the most recent marking period. Principal Joyce Smith could not be reached yesterday for comment.
The next-highest percentage was at Glen Burnie Senior High School, where 41 percent of the school's almost 2,000 students are sitting out extracurricular activities.
Terry Bogle, the school's athletic director, said 10 percent of the school's 160 would-be participants in winter sports are having to sit them out, including four of the five starters on the boys' basketball team. "They're just not taking it very serious," he said of student athletes' efforts to meet the grade. "It seems like it's the same ones over and over who come up ineligible."
No allowances are given to athletes or to other students, he said. "If they want that extracurricular activity, they are going to meet our standards. I don't think it's that difficult to get a C average."
Most schools that require a 2.0 average for participation in extracurricular activities do it so that students will have a period during which they can improve their grades without distractions. In Anne Arundel, students take at least four classes each marking period. The marking periods last about nine weeks.
Some say it is not only students who have to work harder so that their grades meet the mark, but parents and teachers also.
"[When] you see parents not only involved in sports, but more concerned in academics, you're going to find a successful correlation, and we do have that here," said John E. Richardson, an assistant principal at Broadneck Senior High School. There, 22 percent of the school's 1,462 students are ineligible. The only school with a lower proportion was Severna Park Senior High School, with 19 percent.
School board member Steven White Jr., 17, a senior at Meade Senior High School -- where 40 percent of the students are ineligible -- said, "Many parents aren't taking the responsibility [for ensuring that their children get good grades], and the school system is left to remedy this problem."
Other board members blame instruction. Carlesa R. Finney, a member from Glen Burnie, said, "I think high school is boring as hell." The high-tech equipment they have at home is more interesting than "regurgitating some information for a test, especially if you don't think you ever will have to use that information again," she said.
Pub Date: 2/19/97