Tuesday, August 24, 1999

Athletic standards revisited

School board backs off after uproar

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Public Schools leaders Monday night backpedaled on a controversial decision they made two weeks ago to lower academic eligibility standards for middle-school athletes.

        In a 7-0 vote, the school board suspended the policy until it hears more from parents and teachers.

        “Our challenge is to use extracurriculars to encourage kids to achieve at high levels without lowering standards,” said Sally Warner, who heads the board's high-quality schools task force. “It will be good for us to have a broader discussion of this.”

        The new policy for seventh- and eighth-grade students requires passing grades (D or higher) in four core academic subjects — math, language arts, social studies and science. A student may fail a non-academic subject, such as art or music, and maintain eligibility.

        The previous policy re quired at least a 2.0 — or C — overall grade-point average.

        The policy now under review is still tougher than the policy issued by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). Under OHSAA rules, athletes in seventh and eighth grades must pass at least 75 percent of their classes. One of the failing grades may be in an academic subject.

        Supporters of the policy say it will allow more students to participate in activities and keep them in school. But critics complain that reversing the “no-pass, no-play” reform approved in 1991 erodes other gains the 47,200-student district has made in tightening academic standards.

        The board was united in its support when it approved the policy change 5-0 on Aug. 9 (two members were absent).

        “I don't think we should lower the standards one inch,” said board member Lynn Marmer, who was absent for the Aug. 9 vote. “We need to find a better measure of judging children's progress.”

        Cincinnati Federation of Teachers President Tom Mooney blasted the policy change two weeks ago as a message to students that D's are acceptable. Monday, he applauded the board's decision as sensible.

        “They did the right thing,” Mr. Mooney said. “They heard the community's complaints and backed up a step, and that's good.”


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