Friday, April 18, 2008

Sports and Academics

Back in the days of my father, who played several high school sports in the '50s, a guy couldn't play unless his grade point average (GPA) was no lower than a "C" - 2.0 on a four point scale. That's just the way it was. That criteria held true when I was in high school in the '70s as well - no one could participate in high school sports with anything lower than a 2.0 GPA.

We are doing many things in our district to equip our students for life after high school, as they become productive and positive adults. Our core curriculum is being beefed up. Technology is getting serious attention, as we strive to give our kids the best educational foundation available. Several other things are in the works, for the benefit of our students.

So it was with some surprise and alarm that I discovered Swanton was subscribing to the lowest possible academic criteria for sports eligibility as established by the OHSAA (of which we are a member) : a 1.0 on a four point scale. That is only slightly above failing! On April 14th, I sent a letter to several board members of the OHSAA, asking how they could state that one mission of the organization is to "recognize and promote academics" when the academic eligibility to play is set so terribly low.

Now, before I get cards and letters - I realize that the OHSAA standards are the minimum, and that member schools are within their rights to require a higher standard than that minimum level. So I did a little survey of my own.

I went online to school websites, and also popped an email to the principals and athletic directors of 34 high schools in the four-county area, plus a few of our neighbors such as Maumee, Perrysburg, Sylvania, and Springfield, all members of OHSAA. Of those from whom I received information, only 2 used the minimum standards for academic eligibility, and Swanton was one of them.

That's the bad news.

Bryan and Bowling Green enforce 1.85 and 1.7, respectively. The vast majority of the rest use a 1.5 requirement, with varying methods to keep the kids at that level, such as requiring study tables when a grade dips or using weekly eligibility. (I made up a spreadsheet of this information, and if you'd like a copy just send me a note with your email address.)

Having fully expected to find schools using the old 2.0 standard, I confess to being very surprised at the results of my survey. Many parents with whom I spoke (at Swanton and other schools) were surprised as well, so at least I was in good company. Most were VERY surprised to learn how low the standards had dipped since their own high school days.

Anyway, I made a short statement and presentation at our April BOE meeting, and it seemed to meet with general approval (except from Dennis Heban - he told me later that it is inappropriate for a Board member to dictate to administrators what they should be doing. . . that They should recommend things to Us for approval, not the other way around, really . . . so evidently I went about this the wrong way - which shows my ignorance of how things should be done! how embarrassing!!)

The principal and assistant principal, along with our athletic director, put their heads together and came up with a recommendation that Swanton move to a 1.5 criteria. Given what I now know of our neighboring schools, that seems to be a reasonable compromise and a definite step in the right direction for our kids.

That's the good news!

Anything we can do to encourage our kids to do their best, is a positive thing!

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