LARGE NUMBERS of high school students in Anne Arundel County will again find themselves ineligible for extracurricular activities. About 4,700 -- a remarkable one-third of all the high school students -- were unable to maintain a 2.0 grade point average and won't be able to play sports, work on their school newspaper or perform with the school band.
Despite three years of experience, this policy -- dubbed "no pass, no play" when H. Ross Perot pushed for its enactment in football-happy Texas a decade ago -- has not dramatically reduced the number of underperformers.
There is nothing inherently wrong with setting a standard and encouraging students to meet or exceed the standard. The Board of Education has appropriately stated that academic achievement merits priority over extracurricular activities.
Yet the prospect of missing out on playing football or basketball, acting in the school musical or playing in the school band has not improved student performance, as the board hoped. Members assumed that students would buckle down to avoid missing out on sports and other activities they enjoy. The board thought the stick would work better than the carrot; it has not.
Superintendent Carol S. Parham has formed a 50-person task force to explain the large numbers of academically ineligible students. It needs to ask many questions:
Why do boys have a more difficult time than girls meeting this standard? Why are there a disproportionate number of African-American boys and girls who are unable to achieve a C? How many of these ineligible students are excessively absent from classes? How many of them are holding jobs, and how many hours are they working? How many of these students come from single-parent households and are receiving little or no adult guidance?
Once the task force assembles answers to these questions, the board has some challenging choices. Should the standard be maintained even though it seems to be having no impact? Is something else beside this standard needed to motivate students?
If the board should find the answer to the last question, thousands of school systems will be clamoring for the information.
Pub Date: 7/09/97