A student’s high school experience is comprised of many things: classes and prom and music rehearsals and sports competitions. Every kid takes a different path, but hopefully, every kid’s high school experience ends in the same way, with graduation. If a student doesn’t accumulate the necessary credits to graduate by the end of his or her senior year, then something has gone wrong. If we, as a school, haven’t done everything possible and then some to see that that happens, then we haven’t done our job.
Some kids get to graduation on their own, without any special prodding or encouragement. Some kids need extra help from teachers and coaches and even from administrators to get there. We have a lot of tools to provide that extra help, and one of those tools is our athletic eligibility policy. Athletic eligibility is designed to provide that extra push for those kids who need it in order that they stay on track towards graduation. The purpose is not to keep kids from playing the sports they love. Quite the opposite. The purpose is to help our student athletes excel both on the field and in the classroom. I love watching a kid who’s passionate about his or her sport competing. The only thing I love more is seeing that kid graduate.
Our current athletic eligibility policy is based on OSAA-recommended credit accrual guidelines for a 26 credit diploma and on the requirement that a student athlete passes at least 5 classes during the previous trimester. As well aimed and well meaning as this policy is, it’s not up to the job it was designed to do. Here’s one example scenario that I’ll use to illustrate what I mean. Under the OSAA guidelines for the 26 credit diploma, a student who has accumulated 17.5 credits is eligible to participate in the fall of his or her senior year. We add the requirement that the student must have passed 5 classes during the previous spring. In order to remain eligible throughout his or her senior year, the student must pass 5 classes each trimester, meaning that he or she will accumulate an additional 5 credits. That’s a problem, though, because adding those two numbers together – 17.5 credits prior to the senior year plus the 5 credits earned during the senior year – only adds up to 22.5. That’s 1.5 credits short of the state-mandated 24 credit minimum required to earn a diploma in Oregon.
After a lot of discussion, Mr. Soulagnet and I have decided that it’s time to do a bit better. If it’s going to do the job it’s designed to do, our athletic eligibility policy should result in a kid graduating from high school after 4 years. For this reason, there are some changes coming in a few weeks, and some more coming next fall. First, starting with final grades for the current trimester, student athletes will be required to pass 6 classes rather than only 5 in order to be eligible, and this will also need to be true at midterm progress time starting with winter trimester. Note that this does not apply to midterm grades for this trimester. A student who was eligible at the beginning of this trimester continues to be eligible for the remainder of the term regardless of his or her midterm grades for the current term.
Secondly, starting next fall, in order to be eligible, incoming sophomores will need to have accumulated 6 credits, incoming juniors will be required to have accumulated 12 credits, and incoming seniors will need to have accumulated 18 credits. These credit accrual requirements, taken together with the requirement that students pass 6 classes per term, will result in our student athletes graduating with at least the 24 credit minimum diploma, and this is way better than not graduating. As a staff of teachers and coaches, we stand ready to assist our students on towards this goal at every turn.
Mr. Soulagnet and I are absolutely happy to speak to any questions or concerns you may have about this important change. Our goal is and always has been to open doors of opportunity for every student.