Athletics council will consider minimum GPA
A decision on whether to raise the academic bar for Olentangy's student athletes was delayed Monday, July 9, to make time for a closer study of the issue.
Officials currently are gathering data to compare the district's policy with those of other districts after board member Adam White raised concerns June 14 that academic standards for student athletes are too low.
White said the minimum GPA to remain eligible to play sports should be raised to 2.0 -- a C average -- up from the current standard of 1.5.
But at the July 9 school board meeting, Superintendent Wade Lucas said the results of the ongoing study will be vetted by the district's volunteer athletics council before a vote is cast.
The council, made up of parents, coaches and administrators, will review the results when it convenes sometime in August or September and make a recommendation to the board.
Because eligibility already has been determined for the first nine-week period of the coming school year, a decision to raise the minimum GPA for student athletes this summer wouldn't take effect until the second nine-week term in any case.
"This issue is not being tabled," Lucas said. "It's on the forefront and we're leading the way on this GPA discussion -- but there are a lot more variables involved than just saying we want to be at a 2.0 (minimum GPA) like Dublin or Upper Arlington."
That's because the Olentangy district may have a more rigorous curriculum in some respects than other districts, he said.
For example, Olentangy students must earn 22 credits to graduate; most similar Ohio districts require 20 or 21.
The local district also doesn't weigh honors courses more heavily than regular courses when calculating GPA, despite the more difficult coursework.
In other districts, GPAs can be padded by weighted classes.
For some subjects, Olentangy simply doesn't offer lower-level classes. All students in the district take college-preparatory English, while other districts offer a less rigorous baseline English course.
Comparisons are made more difficult because GPA formulas are not standardized across districts. A C-minus in Olentangy is worth 1.67 points; in Upper Arlington, which boasts a 2.0 minimum GPA for athletes, the same grade is worth 1.7 points.
Other districts, such as Dublin schools, which also enforces a 2.0 minimum, offer waivers to allow students to play even if they didn't meet the standard, said Olentangy board member Julie Wagner Feasel.
"It's GPA inflation," Feasel said, "so even though a district might require a higher GPA than we do, many of them offer more ways to get your GPA up or have a more lenient grade scale. It's really hard to compare apples to apples."
In a survey of 23 similar districts across the state, eight matched Olentangy's 1.5 minimum, while seven had a higher GPA standard, ranging from 1.6 to 2.0.
In addition to earning a 1.5 GPA, Olentangy student athletes also must pass at least five classes to remain eligible.
One C-minus could push a student's GPA below a C average, rendering them ineligible, under White's plan.
Director of Secondary Learning Mark Raiff recommended against an increase at the June 14 meeting.
He said most student athletes actually outperform their non-athlete peers in the classroom, and that sports is a motivator for the few who struggle to keep their grades up.