Benching poor achievers Anne Arundel County: Tying grades to extracurricular activities is good policy.

February 21, 1997

FOR SOME CHILDREN, obtaining good grades in school is its own reward. Others need incentives -- money, a private telephone in their room, the ability to participate in school sports or other extracurricular activities.

Anne Arundel County's 2.0 grade-point requirement for participation in extra-curricular activities may seem unduly harsh some, especially after it was reported that one-third of those involved in sports and other extra pursuits had to suspend those activities due to poor grades. Yet making extracurricular activities contingent on grades may be the most effective motivator for students to do better.

The fact is, Anne Arundel's requirements are modest compared to some jurisdictions; in neighboring Howard, student-athletes aren't allowed to fail any courses. In Anne Arundel, those who have a 2.0 grade point average or better (out of a possible 4.0) can play sports, act in the school play or belong to the environmental club. Nevertheless, in some schools, more than 40 percent of the students became ineligible for extracurricular activities and are on 15-day academic probation. At Annapolis High, 43 percent are ineligible. Four of five starters on Glen Burnie's boys basketball team are finished for the season.

Even though this policy is three years old, the number of students declared ineligible during the winter sports season is most dramatic because the suspensions occur at the end of the season when county and state championships are on the line. Fear of missing the playoffs should further motivate the athletes to expend greater effort on their studies.

The argument that athletics is the vehicle for many teen-agers to attend college and the current policy denies them such opportunities flies in the face of reality. With tighter eligibility rules in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, athletes need good grades or a good score on the Scholastic Aptitude Test to play college ball. The NCAA now requires that a student with a 2.0 average obtain a combined SAT score of 1010 to play for a Division I school.

One other unfortunate point to remember: Some parents may pay too little attention to their children's classroom performance, but take notice when they can't cheer on Johnny or Janie from the grandstand.

Pub Date: 2/21/97

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