The raising of academic standards for one area high school should provide food for thought for officials on Cape Ann, as schools and athletic programs look beyond the coming tournaments for this spring season to prepare fo r the 2012-2013 season that begins in September.
As reported inside Monday's Times, Salem's School Committee last week approved a new policy for Salem High School under which students who play a sport — or take part in an extracurricular activity, such as band or drama — can fail only one course in a quarter and still be eligible. Under the current policy, students could fail two courses. The average student takes eight courses each quarter, according to Salem High.
Gloucester High School already has a policy under which students who fail two courses are barred from participating in school sports and other activities. But most schools — including Rockport and Manchester Essex — simply follow the rules of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, which requires passing grades in four major subjects. At Cape Ann schools, where students generally average seven courses a quarter, that means a student can fail two courses and still be in the game.
As we've noted in the past, sports and extracurricular programs are an important part of any student's education, and that's a factor when considering eligibility. Indeed, the late Jim Munn — the legendary Gloucester track coach, writer and community activist — believed athletics should be a recognized "course" within the school's curricula, and there's a case to be made for that.
But consider this: Beverly High students involved in outside activities such as sports must pass every course.
There's not hing wrong with ensuring that high school "student-athletes" are indeed students first.
The best way to drive that home may be to tighten the margin for error when it comes to one's studies — and perhaps giving student-athletes the classroom incentive they need.