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Maryland Weighs Minimum GPA Standard for Student-Athletes

The Maryland state board of education is currently considering whether all high school student-athletes should be expected to hold a minimum GPA of 2.0, in response to a state law passed earlier this year.

The law, passed in May, requires the state board to report back to the General Assembly before the end of the year with specific recommendations about minimum academic requirements for high school student-athletes.

Those recommendations were not required to include a minimum GPA, however.

Currently, Maryland school systems must only "establish standards of participation which assure that students involved in interscholastic athletics are making satisfactory progress toward graduation."

In response to the new law, the state school board formed a Committee on Minimum Standards for Participation in Interscholastic Athletics, which reported back to the board last month with three main recommendations. The first of those recommendations was the suggested minimum GPA.

"I think maybe it is time to rethink" the academic standards, said school board member Donna Hill Staton, according to The Baltimore Sun. "Why is athletics a privilege rather than part of their personal growth?"

If this particular GPA suggestion were to be adopted, student-athletes would need to maintain a GPA of 2.0 in the grading period before and during when they play on the team.

Sixteen of Maryland's 24 school systems already require high school student-athletes to hold a minimum GPA of 2.0, said Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association, at the meeting.

Along with the recommended minimum GPA of 2.0, the committee suggested that local school systems ensure that their student-athletes' grade progress "reflects satisfactory credits earned" towards state graduation requirements. The committee also recommended that student-athletes be held to curricular standards that fall in line with the state's graduation requirements.

The state board is expected to take action on these recommendations in December.

Local Control Issue?

One very important distinction to note here: Local school systems would ultimately maintain control over whether or not to implement these standards. These will only come as recommendations from the state board, not mandates.

An earlier version of the legislation would have required local school systems to adopt the state board's recommendations.

Still, not all board members were supportive of the minimum GPA recommendation. David Cox, superintendent of Allegany County Schools, said that there hadn't been a problem with local districts setting their own standards.

"The superintendents feel very strongly this is a local control issue," said Cox, according to The Baltimore Sun.

Just imagine how he'd feel if the board were mandating these standards for student-athletes.

In all fairness, Cox may be entirely accurate. Maryland may not have previously had a problem with certain schools setting egregiously low academic standards for student-athletes. But, considering that the NCAA recently boosted its academic expectations of student-athletes, the state board may be wise to adopt the suggested minimum GPA after all.

The NCAA already requires incoming student-athletes to have a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be eligible for competition. Starting in August 2015, that minimum expected GPA will rise to 2.3.

Given that, is requiring a minimum 2.0 GPA from high school student-athletes unreasonable?

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