Dumb Jocks: High Schools Are Lowering GPA Standards for Athletes
How will this affect everyone else?
It's never been a secret that athletes get certain perks in high school. Whether it's an extra milk in the lunch line or a blind eye when they're wandering the halls during class, the performance of athletes on the field often has taken precedence over their performance in class.
While those types of favors may be looked upon as harmless, it's the favors that take place in class that have always been viewed as taboo. Though it may not do much to dispel the myth of the "dumb jock," high school athletes sometimes have enjoyed the luxury of teachers giving them higher grades than deserved or even having the smart student do their work for them, just so they can meet academic qualifications to stay on the team.
Such unethical behavior has often gotten teachers, students and schools into hot water. Now, a number of school districts are doing away with or lowering academic requirements to play team sports, drawing criticism that they are valuing athletics over academics.
Students enrolled in the Rockford Public School District in Illinois once had to maintain at least a C or 2.0 grade point average if they wanted to play sports. But no more. Rockford schools have done away with that requirement.
According to ESPN's "Outside the Lines," Rockford found that over the last 10 years, its 2.0 rule had not improved student academic performance, and had only resulted in smaller teams and more students afraid to take academically challenging classes in fear of losing their sports eligibility.
"We realized right away that when we kicked kids off the team, they weren't going to the library," assistant superintendent Matt Vosberg told ESPN. "A lot of them were disappearing from our schools. We knew that we needed to find a way to get those students back into the schools and connected with the schools."
Rockford isn't alone. Schools in Clinton, La., also have lowered their academic requirements for playing sports from a 2.0 to a 1.5 GPA. The policy has some parents concerned.
"Sports is not everything, education is the main thing," Ricardo London, a parent of three in the Clinton school system told local news channel WAFB. "That's just like saying the kids ought to come to school just to play sports and not learn anything."
Boston English High in Massachusetts has lowered their required GPA to 1.67 this despite the fact that many of their student athletes hit the 2.5 GPA mark. However, because their high marks, they saw their overall student athlete population begin to dwindle.
Proponents of the rule changes argue that they are keeping kids off the street by lowering the GPA. They figure that the students who aren't allowed to play sports because of their grades may quit school altogether, so this is a way of keeping them there. But what about after they graduate?
Starting in 2015, the NCAA will make it mandatory that student athletes leave high school with a 2.3 GPA if they want to play sports. As of now it still sits at 2.0 meaning high school two years to get their act together.
Education Week reports:
If a student-athlete meets the current 2.0 GPA requirement but falls short of the 2.3 GPA required for competition, the NCAA approved a proposal that will allow him/her to still remain on his/her athletic scholarship. The NCAA is calling this an "academic redshirt" year.
Meaning that they can practice with the team, but won't be allowed to play in any games.
"We're trying to balance being tough with being fair. These are noticeably higher standards than in the past, but we recognize we need some time to change behavior," said Walter Harrison, the chairman of the Division I Committee on Academic Performance.
Lowering the academic standards for student athletes has paid off in some instances.
"I would say the talent level on the field definitely did go up," said Alex Trautmann, who played baseball, football and basketball at Rockford's Guilford High School. "But we did have issues with penalties, people jumping offsides. It's just back to the discipline thing. Kids weren't able to execute."
The East Feliciana Parish Tigers in Clinton, La., went undefeated last year and are expected to have similar success now that more athletes will be allowed on the team.
However making things easier for the guy on the football team could also be a detriment to the kid who doesn't play sports. If the GPA goes down for them as well, what's the incentive in working hard?