Dayton schools change GPA rules for sports eligibility again

Dayton’s school board last month changed the grades required under its student athletic eligibility policy for the third time in five years.

The previous policy said students with grade-point averages over 2.0 were fully eligible and those with GPAs between 1.5 and 1.99 could play if they enrolled in their school’s Athletic Academic Intervention Program.

The new policy says those between 1.0 and 1.99 can play if they enroll in the district’s Athletic Academic Intervention Program. Also, some students with GPAs below 1.0 can participate in practices but not games/competitions if they are part of the Intervention Program.

Students who do not meet Ohio High School Athletic Association requirements (generally, passing five one-credit classes in the quarter before the season) are ineligible to practice or compete. However, they can also enroll in the Athletic Academic Intervention Program with administrative approval.

Explore2017 story: Dayton lowers GPA bar for sports, adds tutoring

Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli, school board President Will Smith and others said the academic intervention program that has been in place in recent years for students with 1.5 to 1.99 GPAs has not been suitably robust to give struggling students the help that was intended.

Lolli said a group of 25 coaches, athletic site coordinators and principals worked this summer to improve the system.

The core debate of the issue was the same as it’s been in DPS for close to a decade. Board members on one side say that a 2.0 GPA is not that hard to achieve, so the district shouldn’t lower its standards. In 2017, DPS lowered its GPA bar to 1.0 and added the intervention program. In 2020, they raised the bar back to 1.5, saying the Athletics Advisory Board had “strongly supported the move.”

Others argue that many DPS students battling poverty have significant challenges that can affect those grades. They say sports are a motivating factor preventing some students from dropping out, so the district should embrace those struggling students who are willing to participate in the intervention program.

Dayton’s base 2.0 GPA requirement for eligibility is higher than the OHSAA requirement, and higher than many local suburban districts.

Explore2020 story: Dayton raises GPA requirement for sports

The process of the Aug. 16 vote on the new policy was controversial. According to comments at that school board meeting, multiple groups had been discussing the policy — the school board’s policy committee, the athletic advisory council, and a subcommittee working on the intervention program. School board member Chrisondra Goodwine said she also convened two meetings of her own on the topic.

But Goodwine introduced her own policy proposal Aug. 16, and school board vice president Jocelyn Rhynard objected, questioning why Goodwine didn’t go through the standard policy committee process. The two sparred, as Rhynard pointed out that Goodwine is a member of the policy committee but had missed multiple meetings. Goodwine claimed she doesn’t get communications about those meetings.

Goodwine requested to hold a first and second reading of the policy and move immediately to a vote. Rhynard and board member Gabriela Pickett argued that left no time for review or public response. Goodwine quickly asked for a vote to end debate so the board could vote on the policy itself. A two-thirds vote is required to end debate, but the tally was only 4-3, with Rhynard, Pickett and Joe Lacey voting no.

Pickett and Lacey then argued against a lower GPA floor, with Lacey saying, “If you just do your homework, it’s hard to get below a 2.0.” Smith and Goodwine disagreed, citing the upheaval in many DPS families. Said Goodwine, “Our policy punishes kids who don’t have support systems.”

Board member Dion Sampson floated an amendment, to make the policy only a one-year policy, during which time DPS would gather data on the effectiveness of the program and then make adjustments if needed.

That amendment was accepted, and the board then voted to approve the amended policy, 4-3, with Goodwine, Smith, Sampson and Karen Wick-Gagnet voting yes, and Rhynard, Pickett and Lacey voting no.

The policy went into effect immediately, and Lolli said Wednesday that the work to improve the quality of the intervention program did too.

“Regulations had been created by a group of 25 coaches, site coordinators and principals to outline how the study tables would work and who was required to attend,” she said. “While the new policy does not directly match what was presented to the policy committee, we are implementing it as it was written.”

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