The State Board of Education today voted down another attempt to raise the eligibility standard for high school athletes. A review showed about half the schools in Iowa had set their eligibility standards above the state minimum requiring students to pass at least four classes to continue playing. The board today passed a motion requiring schools to make an annual report on their standards and what they do to help kids who don’t meet the standard. Board chair Gene Vincent suggested the move saying he wanted to send a message to the districts they should adopt a standard higher than the minimum. He says he wants the Department to be able to see that the school districts do have a standard in place that’s higher than the minimum that’s been in place since 1992. But, Vincent said he didn’t want to force an increase in the standard, because school administrators have said they want to be able to set standards based on their individual needs. He says the board is not satisfied with the minimum standard, but says the minimum is set to give school districts the flexibility to set standards. Vincent says this action does send a message, even though it doesn’t raise the standard.Boardmember Gregory McClain offered an amendment that would require students to pass all their classes, saying that was the way to really send a message. His amendment failed on a 5-4 vote. McClain says the Board is afraid to offer tougher standards because of the politics involved, he says it’s not the best for students, and it doesn’t send a message of excellence or high expectations. He says it sends the message that failing is fine, and that athletics are more important than reading, writing and arithmetic. McClain led an attempt to increase the standard back in November of 2002, but it failed then too. He says “it’s a sad day for education in Iowa.” McClain says requiring schools to make another report won’t send any message. He says his speculation is that all it will do is once a year schools will have to put in writing what they’re doing, but he says kids will still be allowed to participate if they have failing grades. He says there’s nothing that encourages kids to do better. The measure will require schools to start filing reports with the state on their eligibility requirements in the fall of 2004.
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