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Copyright 2014 Sun Journal
Sun Journal (Lewiston, Maine)

LEWISTON - Saying the athletic eligibility policy doesn't allow students to recover from "bombing" their freshman year, Lewiston High School Athletic Director Jason Fuller is asking for change.

The School Committee heard the request for sophomores, juniors and seniors Monday night, but took no action.

The policy says athletes are eligible to play if they're on track to graduate, achieving the necessary 24 credits.

Now, athletes must have five credits after the freshman year, 11 credits after the sophomore year, 17 credits after the junior year.

Fuller is asking the number of credits be lowered to four after the freshman year, nine after the sophomore and 16 after the junior year.

With the current policy, when students "bomb" their freshmen year, "it's a death sentence," Fuller said. "They never have the ability, in the structure of the school day or in summer school, to get caught up."

Fuller said he met with an incoming senior last week who's worked hard on academics and wants to play. The student got seven or eight credits this year taking extra credit courses. He's attending summer school. Still, he'll be shy by less than one credit.

The policy needs to encouragement students who want to turn their education around, Fuller said. "It dangles a carrot for kids."

The percentage of student athletes who had a bad year is about 5 percent, Fuller said.

School Committee member Tom Shannon asked how many credits freshmen are able to achieve if they pass all courses. He was told 7[1/2].

He didn't seem impressed.

"What that's saying is they only have to pass slightly more than 50 percent of their courses," Shannon said. If his son or daughter didn't get more than four credits, "they're not playing. They're studying," he said.

Committee members also heard proposed athletic eligibility policy changes for incoming freshmen with the new proficiency-based high school diploma.

This fall, freshmen will be given numbers on whether they're proficient in classes and work habits. The numbers will range from one to four; one and two mean they're not proficient, three and four mean they are.

The new policy would say students have to get two's in proficiency and work habits. The two means a student is not proficient, but students don't have to be proficient until theof the year, educators said.

At that, Shannon questioned why have a sports eligibility at all.

"We've tried so hard to raise the standards for participation, to put rigor in education," Shannon said. "We want kids to realize, 'You're not using our school to get an NCAA scholarship when you can't read and write.'" If the eligibility policy "is a false front, I'm not interested in that," he said.

Superintendent Bill Webster said there is no perfect solution. Students can't be required to get a three because they have until theof the year to achieve that, he said.

Chief Academic Officer Sue Martin said she pushed for two's. With the new proficiency-based diploma, "there's going to be more rigor in the ninth grade than there has in the past," she said. "We'll be giving a lot of two's to kids who were getting B's. The standards are going to be tougher. It's going to be hard for teachers to hold to rigor if 60 percent of their class is not eligible."

Lewiston High School Assistant Principal Elizabeth Bradley said this year's freshmen would also have to be on track to graduate to play, which means they'd have to achieve proficiency (or three's) by theof the year.

A student could play during a season when they're not proficient, Bradley said, "but if the kid isn't coming up with three's by theof the year, they're not going to be playing next year."

Committee members are scheduled to vote on the changes July 21 and Aug. 18. If passed, the new policy would be in place this fall.


July 1, 2014


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