Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 8, 1999
for failing students
By MICHELLE J. WILSON
Published Aug. 8, 1999
For many students, football games, club meetings and dances are as much a part of school as going to class.
But those who do not pay enough attention to their studies may miss out on some of these activities. That’s because academic eligibility rules, also called "no pass, no play," emphasize that they are students first.
Falling out of status is taken seriously by students, parents and school officials.
A new policy adopted by the Troy Board of Education will make it easier for them to re-earn eligibility when they fail too many classes. The board changed its policy July 12 in regards to academic eligibility for extra curricular activities.
Now eighth through 12th graders can earn eligibility at the end of each semester, said Henry W. "Hank" Jones, superintendent of Troy City Schools. Before the change, students had to sit out an entire year instead of one semester if they did not meet the requirements.
"The changes brought our school system in line with the State Board of Education, which changed its policy this spring," Jones said.
The state board changed its policy after receiving pressure from the Alabama Legislature. He said voters encouraged the legislators to suggest the change.
Under the new policy, students entering eighth and ninth grade this month must have passed five out of seven classes last year and have a composite numerical average of 70 in all seven classes, Jones said. These rules will continue to apply to seventh and eight graders, except that students who did not make the grades during the 1998-’99 academic year can re-earn eligibility at the end of this fall semester, instead of sitting out for the entire year.
Entering seventh graders are automatically eligible, Jones said.
Previously, middle schooler had to pass five classes and four of them had to be core. The core requirement was removed last month.
Students entering grades 10 through 12 must have passed six out of eight classes last year with a 70 composite numerical average, he said. Four of the six classes must be core subjects, such as science and English.
Under the new rule, high schoolers must pass at least two core classes out of four each semester and have a composite numerical average of 70. They take four classes each semester. To maintain eligibility, they must pass a total of six classes for the academic year, and four of those classes must be core.
This means a student who only passes English and science in the fall must pass all four attempted classes in the spring and two of those classes must be core.
Jones described the new policy as "a good mix."
"The no pass no play policy allows struggling students to concentrate on their schoolwork instead of extracurricular activities," Jones said. "But the activities are what keep them interested in school.
"Allowing students to re-earn their eligibility each semester is a good move."
Becoming ineligible is "a tough lesson," said Rick Stetson, a guidance counselor at Charles Henderson High School. "If they have to sit out a term and they want to be with their friends, they are going to work hard to re-earn their eligibility."
Jones said students are deeply affected when they lose eligibility and take it seriously.
About 200 out of 1,150 students are ineligible for fall semester, he said.
Students who were ineligible at the end of the 1998-’99 school year were informed of their status, Jones said. They had the opportunity to make up two units in summer school.
If they did not take summer classes and re-earn eligibility, they cannot participate in any extracurricular activities. Not only can ineligible students not play sports – they are not allowed to attend dances, club meetings, work on the homecoming float or participate in parades, he said. However they can attend sporting events, such as football games, because admission is open to the public.
"We are hoping those who are ineligible right now will become eligible second semester," Jones said. "We hope it will have a positive effect on all students to work hard to ensure they are eligible."
The school counseling office is available to help struggling students.
When a student is having trouble in a particular subject, a teacher can refer him to the guidance counseling office, which sets up a tutorial program before and after school, Stetson said.
In the case of student athletes, coaches monitor their progress too and work with counselors.
"With the increased eligibility requirements, they know a contributor to their team could be sitting out," he said.
Forrest Lee, head football coach at Charles Henderson Middle School, said he tracks his players’ grades through their progress reports. He also encourages them to study during breaks from games and practice.
"We offer guidance if they need it to help them but do not have an established tutorial program for student-athletes," he said.
For all students, summer school gives students a good opportunity to raise their grades. Although parents must pay for summer classes, they can get more individual attention from teachers since there are fewer students.
When a student loses eligibility, parents and teachers can work together to help him improve his grades.
Parents communicating with their children’s teachers is the best way to ensure they maintain eligibility, Stetson said.
"Parents need to closely monitor their child’s academic performance," he said. "By the time the report card comes, it’s too late."
Teacher conferences can help parents to find out where the problem is.
"Maybe the child is not studying or not turning in homework," Stetson said. "If parents keep in touch with teachers, they will be aware when assignments are due."
Stetson also suggested parents go to the school to pick up their children’s reports cards to be sure they get them.
Lee said the no pass no play rule is a good idea.
"It keeps the students on track," he said. "After all, school is what they are here for.
"Academics is first and anything else is a distant second."
However, Lee said he encourages students to get involved in extracurricular activities. They make students well-rounded, he said.
"Athletics and extracurricular activities are an important part of the educational process," Lee said.