Despite the Pittsburgh Public School District’s requirement that students participating in athletic programs have a 2.0 grade point average, schools have been allowing students to slip through.
In an effort to remedy this inequity and as part of an overall review of the district’s policy manual, the school board will vote at the end of the month to lower the required grade point average to 1.5 for the 2011-2012 school year.
“We know there hasn’t been a consistent across the board use of the policy. The 2.0 is what’s required and what has been required. In order to not unfairly disadvantage students they’re given this probationary period to get their GPA up,” said Ebony Pugh, public relations coordinator for the PPS. “We know it wasn’t followed consistently across the schools. There were students we know who were participating without a 2.0.”
Under the new policy, up for vote by the board at a July 26 meeting, students with a 1.5-1.99 grade point average will be placed on probation, but allowed to continue participating in athletic programs. District 8 School Board Representative Mark Brentley said this policy may keep students from earning a Pittsburgh Promise scholarship which requires students to have a 2.5 grade point average.
“If the Pittsburgh Public Schools require a 2.0, but you are now dropping it to a 1.5, everyone knows that the majority of students who participate in athletics are African-American. If you are now taking a whole segment in the district out and disqualifying them because you’re lowered their requirements, that’s racism,” Brentley said. “It is a lazy educators way to address the large issues with this race gap. I believe it is also a way to take students out of ever qualifying for the Pittsburgh Promise.”
This revision is one of several being considered by the school board as part of the board policy committee’s review of district policies that have not been revised since 1990. The district says the goal is also to make the policy manual more user friendly.
“I don’t know where you got the information about changing grade point averages,” said William Isler, board vice president, when asked about the changes by the New Pittsburgh Courier. “This is a process that we’ve been going through with the board for about three or four years to redo the policy manual. It has not been redone since the early 90s. Everything we do obviously is geared to the goals of the board including student achievement.”
Students placed on probation under the revised policy will have to complete an academic intervention program. Starting in the 2012-2013 school year, the grad point average requirement will be raised to 2.0.
“Even in the colleges there are basically things that students must be able to do. You can outrun the speed of sound but there are things you must be able to do. One coach told me we know we can get good athletes but if we had our chance, we’d like to get a well-rounded human being as well,” Brentley said. “We should be the last ones lowering the bar. It goes against this whole thing of excellence for all.”
It is anticipated that the board will vote on the proposed revisions to Section 100 at its July 27 legislative meeting.