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Posted at 06:07 PM ET, 11/07/2011

Prince George’s loosens academic requirements for high school athletes

If you play football, soccer or any other sport in a Prince George’s County high school, your grade requirements just got easier.

The board of education has eliminated the requirement that high school athletes must pass all their classes and maintain a cumulative grade-point-average above a 2.0. Now the only requirement is that students maintain a cumulative 2.0 grade-point-average.

In other words, athletes can now fail classes.

The system will look at the cumulative GPA from the previous marking period.

Why the change?

It turns out Prince George’s has some of the toughest grade requirements for athletes in the state. In Montgomery County, athletes must maintain a cumulative 2.0 but are allowed to fail one class.

Monday afternoon, I had a brief conversation with Earl Hawkins, who oversees the county’s school sports system. He told me the recommendation stems from upcoming changes at the state level.

The current state standard currently instructs all high school athletes to be “progressing toward graduation.” Sixteen Maryland local school systems have a 2.0 GPA requirement; six require allow athletes to fail one class; two require athletes to pass all their classes (Some, such as Montgomery or Prince George’s, have hybrids of the two).

Last month, the state board listened to a report from an ad-hoc committee suggesting all schools should adopt the 2.0 grade point standard but did not vote on the recommendation. Hawkins believes the state standard will likely pass before end of the year, and says he urged Prince George’s to get a head start on conforming to the state’s wishes.

But the school system didn’t have to change anything. The state system sets the a minimum standard, not the maximum. And the school system standard was more rigorous.

Prince George’s school officials say they see a benefit in more students playing sports. And last year’s brutal budget battle wasn’t too kind to athletes. Some athletic directors had reduced hours. Athletes now have to pay a $50 annual athletic fee. Middle school sports were cut entirely, leaving fewer students to have an athletic experience.

“We still have high academic standards and will still be working with students so they won’t fail classes,’’ Hawkins said. “On the other hand, we’ll be able to give some opportunities to some students who are struggling academically and give them a chance to get more mentorship, develop their leadership skills and feel a part of the school.’’

Those opportunities, Hawkins said, can help under-performing athletes get better grades.

In these times of continued raising standards for students, this move certainly bucks the trend..

What do you think the appropriate grade requirements should be for athletes?

By  |  06:07 PM ET, 11/07/2011

 
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