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Illinois Boosts Academic Standards for High School Student-Athletes

Illinois high school students now must pass one more class per semester to remain eligible for school sports, due to a proposal certified last week among a package of 14 changes from the state high school association.

Proposal 7, as it was called, required student-athletes to "be doing passing work" in 25 credit hours (the equivalent of five classes) per week in a given semester to remain eligible. The Illinois High School Association passed on a 309-189 vote.

A concurrent proposal, Proposal 8, requires students to have "received credit for passing work" in 25 credit hours the previous semester to remain eligible. It passed on a similar 304-195 vote.

For both proposals, physical education can be counted as one of the five courses, even if the school doesn't award credit for it.

"It's possible now in many schools for a student to be eligible to participate in IHSA sports for four years, but not have enough credits to graduate," said District 308 Superintendent Jim Dunnan, the author of these proposals, to the Peoria Journal Star.

Dunnan stressed that the rules still give student-athletes breathing room, as most students in the state take either six or seven classes at a time.

"My proposals don't mean 'no pass, no play,' " he said. "Students can maintain their academic eligibility if they're carrying an F for a week or semester. They can stub their toe."

One other noteworthy proposal changes the rules for summer football practices, presumably for the sake of player safety. Teams must start with two days of helmet-only practices, then progress to helmet and shoulder pads for two days, before being allowed to put players in full pads.

Last summer, the American Academy of Pediatrics released new guidelines advising schools how to manage student-athletes in extreme heat. One of the recommendations was for coaches to give their players a 14-day graduated return to physical activity.

The Illinois High School Association member school referendum voted online throughout December on the proposals, with a total of 500 of the possible 794 member schools participating. The changes all take effect on July 1, starting with the 2012-13 school year.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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