The State Board of Education Wednesday appointed a committee to take a broader look at the new rule requiring student athletes to pass all their classes to remain eligible. The issue came up after a survey that showed concerns from schools and athletic directors over differences in applying the rule to different sports and activities.
Boardmember Charles Edwards of Des Moines expressed concern that only 45-percent of the schools in the state returned the survey, and suggested the board form its own committee. Edwards says they want a longer period of time and a more complete picture of how the rule change has affected students involved in athletics and other activities.
Students who participate in sports are required to sit out 20 school days if they fail a class, while the speech and music associations require students to sit out 30 days for a failing grade. Edwards says the survey gives an early look at the change. He says it’s a “snapshot, but certainly not a complete look.” Edwards says he doesn’t know what the numbers of this study means, as he says they assumed there would be more students affected if they “raised the bar,” but didn’t have any expectations as to how many would be affected. Edwards says he’s not ready to say if there needs to be any changes at this point. Edwards says much of what came back from the survey, came back in the form of comment as opposed to actual statistics.
Boardmember Mary Jean Montgomery will serve on the committee with Edwards and also agreed they need more information. She says they need more “longitudinal evidence than just one semester.” Montogmery says some districts are still trying to understand the policy and how it works. “And we’re trying to figure what the consequences, the details. The devil’s always in the details, and that’s the hardest part of actually executing rules once you have the overarching goal,” Montgomery says, “and so what we need to do now is figure out what are some of the consequences that they are so negative, that they defeat the purpose of the overarching goal.”
Montgomery says she’s like to ask some more specific questions of schools. Mongomery says they need more data and to ask the right questions before they can do some tweaking. “There probably is some tweaking that needs to be done to the rules, but we need a lot more information,” Montgomery says. Montgomery says they want to be sure that the rule encourages kids to reach high standards. Montgomery says the rule was never meant to be punitive, it is meant to ensure that the overarching goal of high standards and high expectations is met by all kids.
Bob Sweeney is the assistant principal and activities director at Atlantic High School. Sweeney is also past-past-president of the Iowa High School Athletic Director’s Association, and attended the meeting to hear what the board had to say. Sweeney says, “I think the Department of Ed has a difficult challenge. They had a difficult challenge putting it (the new rule) in.” Sweeney says he respects the Board’s decision making, yet he feels the information the Board gathers will indicate that “tweaking needs to take place.”
Sweeney says the new rule doesn’t take into account the differences in seasons and number of contests when applying punishment. Sweeney says it’s unfair to have someone sit out 30 days and miss 67-percent of their activities, and have someone else sit out 30 days and not miss any activity. Sweeney says it makes the rule hard to enforce. Sweeney says athletic directors aren’t against the rule itself.
Sweeney says “no pass, no play” has merit, but he says the reality of the rule comes on the enforcement side. “And right now that needs to be tweaked,” Sweeney says. The survey that spurred the discussion was conducted by Urbandale activities director Bill Watson as part of his doctoral study. Boardmembers Rossie Hussey of Clear Lake and Gene Vincent of Carroll will also serve on the board committee that’ll review the rule.