There's no doubt that sports and cheerleading can be a carrot an incentive to encourage teens stay in high school and keep their grades high enough basically a C average to be eligible to participate. The same is true for student leadership activities.
All districts have a GPA standard, but Modesto City Schools also has had a requirement that athletes, cheerleaders and student leaders can have no more than two unsatisfactory marks in citizenship in the preceding quarter in order to participate. The school board voted to drop that requirement for the coming school year.
Is this a move to be fair, because teachers are inconsistent in how they grade citizenship and many of the criteria are subjective? Or is it another example of lowering the bar?
To their credit, the seven school board members spent more than an hour discussing this issue and ultimately made the change for just one year, asking for reviews of the impact.
Our primary concerns, shared by some business leaders: Does this change send the wrong message to students and the community? Shouldn't there be consequences to bad behavior?
Students receive unsatisfactory citizenship marks for things like poor attendance, not completing assignments, frequent tardies and a lack of effort. That list echoes the complaints of employers about many of their young workers.
Modesto schools have many programs to promote responsible behavior. Our entire community joined an effort to "Choose Civility." A Boys and Girls Club is being started in the Sylvan district to promote academic success and personal responsibility.
The committee that proposed this change said students aren't always to blame when they are late to school. That may be the case in elementary grades, but by high school, students can and should be able to get themselves to class on time. The committee report also argued that the citizenship standard puts Modesto teams at a disadvantage. We would suggest that being held to high standards in high school give students an advantage later in life, when the stakes are much greater.
We agree that coaches and advisers can be valuable mentors for students. Sports can be fun and educational, which is why students should be encouraged to make the grades and display the responsible behavior to be eligible to participate in them.