Proposal allows students under 2.0 GPA to participate in school activities with restrictions
Blair's PTSA voted unanimously last month to support an alternative extracurricular eligibility policy that would begin with the current ninth graders in the Down County Consortium (DCC). Other DCC schools are considering the policy, and the PTSA hopes to meet with MCPS officials soon.
Freshmen ineligibility rates are currently high in the DCC schools. Out of Blair's 909 freshmen, 33 percent are ineligible. At Einstein, 34 percent of the 460 current ninth graders are ineligible. At Kennedy, 37 percent of the 424 freshmen cannot participate in after-school activities, and at Wheaton, 49 percent of the 439 ninth-grade students are ineligible.
The pilot program was drafted in hopes of getting previously ineligible students involved in extracurricular activities. It states that high-school students under a 2.0 GPA may be eligible for extracurricular activities if they and their guardians sign a contract agreeing to participate in a personal academic support program. It is a "provisional eligibility" plan in which academic support is provided through teacher-supervised after-school study halls, tutoring by a team member, participation in a weekend study group, completion of extra work for a subject or "whatever it takes" to raise their GPA. However, if the student does not receive a 2.0 or higher on the next report card, then he or she must withdraw from the activity.
Ray Scannell, a Blair Cluster Representative for the PTSA who contributed to the proposal, said that each high school in the DCC would experiment with various methods from which MCPS could determine which are the "best practices." Interims and other grades at the end of a marking period would be evidence of the student's progress. If the pilot is a success, Scannell said MCPS as a whole could adopt the program. The proposal has already been sent to the PTSA listserv, other Blair cluster PTSAs and PTSAs at the additional DCC schools. Principal Phillip Gainous circulated it to the principals of the other DCC high schools. The PTSA hopes to receive comments and suggestions before sending it to the MCPS administration and Board of Education to ask for their approval.
Gainous informed the PTSA last December of an increase in gang activity among middle- and high-school students with the highest instances occurring between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m., when most students are home alone. The PTSA points to this increased participation in gangs as the reason for the new plan. The proposal attempts to solve this problem so that all students will have the chance to participate in activities after school and remain safe. MCPS' current policy requires a minimum GPA of 2.0 for students to participate in school clubs, sports, theater, choir, orchestra and other activities.
Scannell said schools should not penalize students but instead encourage them to participate in school programs. "Kids with less than a 2.0 average need more, not less connection to school," he said. "Kids struggling academically are typically those at greatest risk for leaving education. We don't think these kids should be 'pushed' out of school and into harm's way. Instead we should do everything possible to give them a positive reason to focus on their studies."
Co-President of Blair's PTSA Fran Rothstein was one of the main authors of the proposal and thinks that participation in extracurriculars and study groups fosters academic success and develops a sense of school pride. "I don't think there are any cons that can't be overcome with a little money, creativity and good will. In my professional work, I've done a number of projects on high school reform, and the research I cited is only the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of data demonstrating a positive relationship between connections with school and student well-being."
For more information, check out the PTSA website.
Allison Elvove. Allison Elvove was a Co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online during the 2004-2005 school year. She wrote more than 70 articles while on the staff and supervised 40 student journalists, editing articles on a daily basis. During her time as editor, Silver Chips Online won the … More »