Extracurricular GPA Requirement Returned To Committee

Board of Education votes to further review policy setting minimum academic standard for participation in activities such as sports and clubs

The question of whether student athletes and other participants in extracurricular activities in the should meet a minimum academic standard will again fall to a committee after the Board of Education voted Thursday to return a proposed policy to that level.

The board voted 6-1 to refer the matter to the policy committee. The decision came a day after a and preempted Superintendent Nicholas Fischer’s suggestion that it go to a third reading and vote at the January meeting.

The policy as drafted would —the equivalent of a C- average—to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams and clubs in the 2012-2013 academic year. The policy would raise the standard to a 2.0 minimum GPA in the 2013-2014 academic year.

The policy said students who do not meet the minimum would be placed on academic probation and receive academic support to help improve their grades. Students who fail to improve their grades by the end of the probationary period would be ineligible for participation in extracurricular activities until the next grading period to determine if their grades have improved.

Board member Peg Curtin motioned for the policy to be returned to committee, saying she wanted further discussion to take place.

“I have a lot to say, but I’ll certainly say it at Policy [Committee],” she said.

Secretary Jason Catala said he initially favored setting the minimum requirement at a 2.0 GPA, but that he was moved by opinion’s offered at Wednesday’s hearing. Coaches and members of the public raised concerns there including the suggestion that the policy was discriminatory by only addressing certain students, that it could drive students to drop out or go to schools with less stringent policies, and that it could deprive students of positive influences on teams and clubs. Catala said he supported a review of the ordinance in the policy committee, which he chairs.

Board member Delanna Muse raised a separate concern, saying the district is responsible for providing a sound education and that a 1.7 GPA requirement sets the bar too low.

“We need to increase their expectations and start at a 2.0,” she said.

Jessica Fort, a student representative to the board from and captain of the school’s track and field team, agreed. She said she felt student athletes will take greater pride in their work if expectations are higher.

“They can always be a good athlete, but having education first is really important to me…It’s kind of sad that our school is known for athletics first,” she said.

Fischer said the policy is part of the district’s effort to improve academic achievement. He said that under the requirements for participation in Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference sports, student athletes can currently participate in teams with a GPA of under 1.0.

Fischer said students are entitled to take part in extracurricular activities but must be responsible for their own actions. He said the policy also acknowledges the schools’ responsibility in providing students the skills they will need to succeed after graduation.

“Until last year we were quite comfortable graduating students who were functionally illiterate,” he said.

Board member Barbara Major said she the schools need to ensure that students have the skills needed to achieve in the next grade level before approving their advancement.

“If these children aren’t passing the [Connecticut Mastery Tests], why are they being passed along?” she asked.

President Bill Morse, who was the sole member to vote against Curtin’s motion, said he would like the policy committee to work on a complementary policy to address the issue of achievement in lower grades. He said the policy should address how the schools can assist students who are not meeting requirements, who will help these students, and how this support can be paid for.

“The message I got last night was we’re working in isolation with just the high school students, and I agree,” he said.

Randy Drummond December 09, 2011 at 11:36 AM
Sorry I missed this first meeting of the new BoE. I was curious to see how the new BoE president handles the superintendent. Is the superintendent still in charge of the board or did the new board take charge of the board of education. Can anyone who attended please share what happened.
Dennis Downing December 10, 2011 at 11:53 AM
Are you kidding me! You want to have kids that may be good at sports but can't read or write. Be real with the children. If they don't know that not everybody can become a pro then it's up to the parents and the schools to tell them. The schools need to give them a chance to survive in life. If that means they have to keep a c or better average so be it. Any parent who would let their kid drop out of school because they can't play sports because their kid can't keep a c average in my opinion can't care much for their kid future. You have to stop letting these kids be lazy. Show them the value and rewards for the things they want to do in life by hard work. If you push them they may surprise you.
GURU December 10, 2011 at 04:03 PM
While raising academic standards should be a premium, look at everything that will be impacted by this decision. As sad as it to say there are many parents who are not involved and kids will drop out as a result of this policy. Many students learn invaluable lessons from participating in athletics. Life skills such as responsibility, teamwork, accountability, and hardwork. For the most part their social life is centered around athletic practices and games, as well as mandatory study halls. By raising the bar it is inevitable that many students will not meet the necessary requirements. In New London the consequences will be drastic, on average athletes perform better academically, have a better attendance rate, and receive less referrals and suspensions.
Thomas Cornick December 10, 2011 at 05:00 PM
By raising the bar those who do not meet academic performance requirements can direct their time and energy into academic performance. Those who meet the requirements can afford the time to devote to games and play. Having a minimum standard provides an incentive for those whose passion is sport/athletics to complete their studies in order to participate. If I had a magic wand we would fund things like football by allocating the percentage of funds that matched the percentage of graduates that went on to full time employment in football.
Dennis Downing December 10, 2011 at 07:11 PM
Sorry Guru but the amount of students who will fall between the cracks after they get out of school and realize they don't have a future in sports I think far out way the ones that do have a future. At least the students that do work hard to keep their grades up will have a better chance at life with or without sports. I also think we need to bring back recess for grades 1-6 at least. I think by not giving them a chance to exercise the school are contributing to a health issue.
GURU December 10, 2011 at 08:22 PM
In a perfect world, students who did not meet the requirement would dedicate themselves, that's not the reality. Students who do not meet the requirement will not receive the study halls, the structure, and coaches who monitor their progress throughout the year. How many schools in the ECC or the state for that matter have adopted a 2.0 minimum requirement? If you look at youth crime in our city the majority of criminals do not play high school sports. Why not use athletics to provide greater academic growth, through the use of tutors and academic study halls. Educational gurus continually talk about why kids shut down and don't try. It is often because they feel helpless because they don't read or write well. The strategy they recommend is to modify. This move to a 2.0 gpa is not a modification in my opinion. I think the people that deal most closely with our at risk youth would agree, and that's why New London residents/graduates/coaches like Juan Roman and Tommie Major voiced their opinion at the Board of Ed. If athletics is a way to inspire education, we should be tapping into it by providing a setting in which all student athletes can succeed academically.
Thomas Cornick December 10, 2011 at 08:37 PM
"If you look at youth crime in our city the majority of criminals do not play high school sports. " Or ride unicycles, keep bees, play violin, or practice falconry but that is not causality. As for a standard I was under the impression the draft asked for a grade of 1.7 not 2.0
GURU December 10, 2011 at 08:49 PM
1.7 for the first year, 2.0 after one year. BTW the ones that fall through the cracks sometimes do horrific things and damage our community a great deal. Then we comment how awful, misguided, and terrible they are.
Matthew December 19, 2011 at 04:26 PM
GURU, your statements are very contradictory. You say, "Many students learn invaluable lessons from participating in athletics. Life skills such as responsibility, teamwork, accountability, and hardwork....on average athletes perform better academically." So, by being an athlete, according to your statements, all our NLHS athletes should already be performing above a 2.0 (not a slap in the face 1.7) GPA, especially our seniors, who over the last 3 years have learned to be responsible, accountable, and give 110% effort in working hard to stay above a 2.0. In your words, that's not the reality. A lot have already fallen through the cracks, while hanging onto a ball. They have not perfromed better academically. If anything, they got worse - NLHS the worse CAPT score in ALL connecticut for public schools in 2010-2011 school year, wasn't the case in 2009-2010 school year, and this is WITH the study halls that ALREADY EXIST to help them. But hey, we're state and conference champions and runner-up last year - all seniors on the football and basketball teams got scholarships and are doing well in college right now as I type. So, let's see: Option 1 - raise standards, some kids fall through the cracks, Option 2 - don't raise standards, same kids still fall through the cracks, delayed by a few years. Oh yeah, that's right, possibly no more state and conference titles. After all, NLHS is defined by sports. GURU, is that the drastic outcome you are referring.
GURU December 19, 2011 at 11:35 PM
I like how you pick and choose what I say to make your point. Many not all do learn invaluable lessons by participating in athletics. The data is very clear and supports that fact. Time management skills, responsibility, and teamwork would be some of the benefits that you can't measure. As poor as New London schools are according to the state, statistically at New London High students who participate in athletics perform better academically, have a better attendance record, and receive far less referrals and suspensions. You are also making it seem that I am not for standards, which isn't the case. Does a 2.0 translate to a successful college student? What other urban schools in America have had success with a similar program? It is obvious that changes are needed, I am for an approach that is balanced with higher standards but more importantly better support. There are successful students who graduate from New London High who go on to four-year colleges and have very successful careers, so it is extremely possible for students to succeed there regardless of what the CAPT scores say. As a New London resident who lives in the real world and sees the effects of decisions, I think more research is necessary. Not to same names but if you looked at the history of some of our most recent community problems regarding our youth and intervention for many was necessary prior to the horror stories you read. If your serious about fixing problems support is imperative.
Matthew December 23, 2011 at 03:00 PM
GURU, you keep saying they are performing better: better than who, compared against what? Please quantify: what do you mean by "performing better" - clearly you don't mean performing at a minimum GPA of 2.0, else we wouldn't be having this conversation. Is a 1.7 GPA beyond what you measure as "performing better?" A 2.0 doesn't necessarily mean a successful college student, but other than community colleges (they're awesome) NO college will even accept a GPA less than 2.0, including those with Division I sports programs. For you to be against a 2.0, you are against giving a potential Division I college athlete the chance to play. Time management, responsibility, teamwork are valuable, no doubt, but COUPLED with education or skill - what deadline are you going to meet, working with what team, to do what task, if you don't have the know-how? Having a good attendance record COUPLED with education and skill will present opportunities. The intangibles are excellent traits, but leads to better opportunities only when COUPLED with education and skills. I too have been working with kids and teens at my church in New London for a long time. I emphasize the intangibles, IN ADDITION to education and skills. Even in my church, I sometimes had to "fight" for the kids to be able to do more than what most adults thought they "couldn't" do. I set high standard, and EVERY time, the kids suceeded. You sound like Ray Lewis of the Ravens predicting crime rate rising in U.S. with no NFL season.
GURU December 23, 2011 at 06:51 PM
Student-athletes at New London High have a higher graduation rate then non-student athletes at New London High, as well as better attendance records, less suspensions, and a higher gpa, to quantify. In terms of the NCAA students in college do not need a 2.0 Gpa to compete in athletics until their junior year. If it is easy as raising the standard as you say at your church, then why haven't they done that all over the country? Why haven't schools that are excelling such as East Lyme adopted such as a policy as well? The reason why is it's not that simple, your experience with kids from your church should have told you that. There are so many variables that go into a decision like this and it is imperative that the proper research is done before a plan like this is implemented. In urban communities with high poverty rates it is especially important because sports provide a valuable alternative to all the distractors that lure students away from learning. My criticism has continually been the need for ample supports to support a massive jump from a 0.57 gpa which most schools in the state use to determine academic eligibility to a 2.0. When you set high standards and EVERY time they succeed; this has more to do with the kids then you. Kids that buy in to what you are doing will succeed is it that simple. Sadly some of our kids don't buy in to education, and many do buy in to athletics, the numbers prove this. We need to use that buy in to improve student learning.
Matthew December 24, 2011 at 01:16 PM
What data are you using to back up student athletes at NLHS have a higher GPA? Please, direct me to your source. Superintendent Fischer himself said “These students need to know what’s going to happen to them in college, because a lot of our students have not made it through the first year of college.” His office has data that tracks that information. You talk about data, but you want to ignore the CAPT scores. I am not saying raising standards is the cure-all. I am saying it is part whatever action is taken. As for NCAA students, again, where are YOU getting your "facts?" Go to the following link (web1.ncaa.org/eligibilitycenter/hs/d1_standards.pdf), straight from the NCAA official website - minimum GPA for starting freshmen for both Division I and Division II is 2.0!! You may also go to the following link (www.ncaa.org/wps/wcm/connect/public/NCAA/Eligibility/Remaining+Eligible/Academics, click under FAQ - what gpa for Div I) to see that in order to remain eligible to play, at beginning of 2nd year - 1.9, at beginning of 3rd and 4th year - 2.0!! You don't have to declare a MAJOR until 3rd (junior) year, but STILL need a 2.0!! Because you are wrong, and have not taken the time to do your OWN research, but just babble off your own opinion as facts, and because you think a 2.0 is a "high" standard for high school, and you (seemingly) think employees will hire someone from college with a GPA less than 2.0. You're not worth any more of my time. Let's hire teachers with 1.7!
GURU December 24, 2011 at 02:20 PM
To be honest with you Matthew I don't know why I am wasting my time with you. You continually criticize me and put words in my mouth and twist my points. You provide data which supports what I said. You don't need a 2.0 gpa in order to compete in college until your junior year, your data proves my point. As far as the CAPT is concerned, I never suggested ignoring it, I just stated there are successful students who graduate from New London High every year regardless of the CAPT scores. I have never said that I wasn't for raising the standards, yet you continue to criticize me as if I have. The data I gave you is all factual about students at New London High; go to central office and poke around if you must find out. Here is another stat for you, over 1/3 of all students who graduate high school are not graduating from college in four years. The problem is happening all over the country. The statistic about New London students leaving college after one year has to due with academic readiness but also culture shock as many students have a difficult time adjusting to an environment that is much different than what they are use to. I have spoken with numerous high school graduates who did not like or adapt to the experience and dropped out as a result. I am for standards and for AMPLE SUPPORT.
Matthew December 25, 2011 at 01:25 PM
Hey GURU, glad we got that off our chest :) We both want the same for our kids, but obviously have very opposing views. Apologize for the personal attack, my passion for our kids got the best of me, as also is obvious your passion. Merry Christmas.


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