UPDATE: Read this story in conjunction with the one seen here.
The Baldwin-Whitehall School Board voted, 8-1, in November to revise that policy so that students in grades 7-12 with below a 70-percent grade in any core subject could not participate in any extracurricular activity, from basketball to Math League to Drama Club and beyond.
A paragraph of that policy now reads, "To be eligible for any extracurricular activity, a student must maintain a 2.0 overall grade point average in all courses taken and must maintain passing grades in English, mathematics, science and social studies courses in grades 7 through 12. If a student does not earn a 70% or higher in English, mathematics, science or social studies, that student will be placed on academic probation in any extracurricular activity which the student is participating. Eligibility shall be cumulative from the beginning of a grading period, shall be reported on a weekly basis, and shall be filed in the principal's office."
A joint email sent to district parents on Feb. 28 by Baldwin High School Activities Coordinator Anissa Rosenwald (a Spanish teacher) and Baldwin High Principal Kevin O'Toole spelled out more details.
"An eligibility report will be published every Friday for distribution to club sponsors and guidance counselors," the email reads. "Students who are deemed 'ineligible' will be unable to participate in extracurricular activities from the immediately following Sunday through Saturday. In the event that a student is ruled ineligible for any period of time, our guidance counselors will work to facilitate remediation."
B-W Superintendent Dr. Lawrence C. Korchnak explained at a school board meeting on Wednesday night that ineligible students will have that one week to raise their grade(s) back up to at least 70 percent. But if they do not, they will remain ineligible.
Victoria Schmotzer, the district's sophomore class representative to the school board, brought the eligibility topic up during Wednesday's meeting.
Schmotzer questioned the fairness of the district's policy, saying that one week is not enough time, especially given that some district teachers do not assign graded material to their students every week.
"You give us a week to make it up," Schmotzer said. "Some teachers don't put grades in the grade book (every week). They'll put their first grade in the grade book, and that's it. Then, they'll wait 'til the end of the nine weeks (grading period) and put everything in.
"A week's not practical to bring up your grade. It's just not. Two weeks, maybe, but in a week, you don't have a test sometimes (or) you don't have any graded assignments.
"I understand the reasoning for this—to help kids bring up their grades—but giving them a week, it just discourages kids. So kids just won't play sports or won't do activities."
Korchnak explained that the 70-percent policy being enforced by the school board for all of its extracurricular activities is in line with what the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association already has in place. The board is holding students in other district clubs to the same standard now, he said.
"The PIAA—that's the requirement to participate in sports," Korchnak said. "We didn't have a similar requirement to participate in any other activity, so the recommendation to the board was to make it consistent.
"If the board elects to, we can review it and we can change it for activities, but we can't change it for sports because that's a state regulation."
(UPDATE: Read here: B-W's Eligibility Policy Actually Stricter than PIAA's)
Korchnak also said that district teachers who are grading students in the manner in which Schmotzer said will be addressed, if that is happening at all.
"That shouldn't happen, because that's bad teaching," Korchnak said. "Teachers should have at least six to eight grades in a (nine-week) grading period, and there should be means by which that's done. That is almost a generic rule about having multiple assessments in the course of a grading period.
"If it's not done, then we gotta go back and check (on that teacher)."
But school board member Tracy Macek, who was not on the board in November to vote on the revision to Policy 122, echoed Schmotzer's concerns over whether or not district teachers were giving students an equal chance to raise their grades week-by-week.
"All teachers are different," Macek said, "so how is that fair to a child that happens to get a teacher that doesn't give quizzes every week to help them boost that grade?"
Replied Korchnak, "It's not fair. Life is not fair. The whole issue is you're going to have differences from one teacher to another. However, it is the responsibility of the administration that the teachers do teach and instruct and assess appropriately. I would ask my administrative team to specifically go back and look at that."
Nevertheless, Korchnak acknowledged that individual cases might not be entirely consistent.
"Honestly, I don't know what to tell you, because there are differences between teachers. Even the same teacher in a different class has different standards, and that's a very difficult thing to standardize."
Board member Larry Pantuso defended the policy.
"It's great that we have clubs. It's great that we have athletic events," Pantuso said, "but if you can't maintain a C average in a high school (core) course—I'm sorry. I don't know if you need to be spending extracurricular activity time doing a club or whatever else. I think you need to be studying.
" ... I think (the policy) needs to be left the way it is."
Macek agreed with the 70-percent minimum—"I'm all about the 70 percent," she said—but maintained that fairness for each district student is in jeopardy due to inconsistent grading.
In public comments time near the end of meeting, B-W PTA member Jerry Pantone asked the board to delay the enforcement of the 70-percent minimum, saying that there is much confusion over how students can raise their grades.
"I would suggest, respectfully, that you postpone this policy until a time where everybody's a little more clear. The citizenry has more questions than answers, and it seems to me that this policy is not something that has been explained well enough.
"It seems rushed. This policy has been voted on since November; yet, we're implementing it now. Why not at the beginning of a grading period, or better yet, the beginning of the school year?"
Thoughts on the policy? Grading consistency? Share them in the comments section below.
And check back with the Baldwin-Whitehall Patch later on Thursday for more odds and ends from Wednesday night's school board meeting.
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