A minimum grade point average for extracurricular activities in the New London Public Schools required 32 instances of academic assistance for New London High School athletes, according to information presented to the New London Board of Education.
The report noted the number of athletes who have fallen below a 1.7 GPA in fall and winter sports in the current school year. This is the first year the district has required students to meet the minimum GPA, the equivalent of a C- average, to take part in extracurricular activities.
In fall sports, six football players fell below the threshold. Three members of the boys’ soccer team and one member each of the fall cheerleading squad and boys’ cross country running team also fell below the required GPA. The members of the girls’ soccer and cross country teams as well as the volleyball team all stayed above the minimum level.
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In winter sports, eight members of the wrestling team fell below the requirement. The report says five of these athletes quit the team prior to the start of the regular season.
The report also states that four members of the boys’ basketball team, three members of the boys’ indoor track team, and two members each of the girls’ basketball, girls’ indoor track, and boys’ swimming and diving teams had their GPAs drop below the 1.7 average. The winter cheerleading squad was the one team where all members stayed above this level.
The minimum GPA requirement for extracurricular activities, including sports, was approved by the Board of Education in a 6-1 vote last April. The minimum GPA will increase to 2.0 for the 2013-2014 school year.
The policy requires any students who do not make the average to be placed on academic probation for five weeks, during which they must attend after-school private academic support classes run by coaches and other staff, be on time for all classes, and complete all class assignments. Athletes must also meet the standards of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, and may rejoin a team once their academic performance has improved to the minimum level.
The proposal had mixed reactions from coaches and residents. Supporters said it would encourage students to work harder to improve their grades. Opponents said it unfairly targeted only a portion of the student body for academic improvement and said it could potentially drive students away from constructive activities.
Superintendent Nicholas Fischer said the district is considering whether the GPA minimum and academic support model should be extended to the student body as a whole as part of the effort to improve student achievement. He said students were checked on a daily basis while on academic support to determine whether they could return to a team.
“We think this has been very successful,” said Fischer.
Principal Tommy Thompson of New London High School said about 27 percent of the high school’s students take part in extracurricular activities and that those who fell below the standard were a small percentage of more than 200 students participating in such activities. He said athletes were able to continue practicing while on academic support and that “very few” athletes were benched during competitions due to the policy.
The number of athletes affected by the policy closely correlates with a figure put forth by football coach Juan Roman, who opposed the measure and said coaches already hold students to a high academic standard. Roman formerly said only 35 of the school’s 230 student athletes have GPAs below 2.0.