The Menomonee Falls School Board may soon adopt a more stringent policy for the academic performance of its student athletes.
On Tuesday, School Board member Lori Blodorn presented a revised code of conduct draft for athletes at Menomonee Falls High School, which will incorporate cumulative GPA into eligibility requirements along with the WIAA minimum requirements.
On May 14, for student athletes above and beyond the WIAA minimum purely for debate. The policy received a first read Tuesday.
The proposed revision for the Athletic Code at MFHS would require athletes to maintain a 1.5 GPA - or a “C-” average – while participating in sports. If a student’s cumulative GPA falls below a 1.5 average, the student would be required to actively engage in an individualized program created by district staff to improve academic performance.
Each program would be catered to the individual needs of the athlete to get them back on track. The program would then be documented in writing to ensure accountability.
Student athletes falling below the GPA requirement would still retain their eligibility. However, if an athlete fails to comply with the requirements and expectations documented in their individual program, they would then become ineligible. Superintendent Patricia Greco said an individualized plan could be content related or guidance related depending on each student.
“We wanted to both honor our commitment to academic success, but make it consistent to our response to interventions in order to get students the support and services they need if their GPA falls below a certain standard,” Blodorn said.
Currently, athletes at MFHS are subject to the WIAA minimum requirement for academic performance. Student athletes retain eligibility if they haven’t received more than one failing grade in the most recent marking period. If they are declared ineligible - carrying two failing grades - they have three weeks to bring their grades back up while they are suspended from competition.
The WIAA’s minimum requirement would remain on the books along with the additional GPA revision by the School Board. However, the district’s revised policy doesn’t include a set time frame to improve cumulative GPA.
“The intent is that by monitoring the student through the student services team will keep them plugged in,” Greco said. “We’re recommending active engagement in remediation.”
If the revised policy were in place this spring, it would impact just a small group of students. According to data from the district, of the 658 students currently participating in spring sports only five are carrying a cumulative GPA below 1.5.
Board member Paul Tadda encouraged the board to increase the minimum cumulative GPA to a 2.0 level, or a "C" average.
“Participation in sports is not a right, but a privilege. I think that's a good lesson for students to bring home. If we aren't removing their eligibility why not raise it to a higher level?” Tadda asked.
Director of Pupil Services Kathy Zarling said if a higher standard were placed for athletes, it would not mirror the standards for intervention that are applied to all students at the school. It would imply that student athletes achieving at an average level were in need of academic intervention but other students were not. Zarling said the district will typically look to academic interventions when a student achieves below an average level.
“We'd be saying that students performing at an average range isn't good enough,” Zarling said. “It's when they fall below average then we're asking kids to balance the time they spend in practices, games, and their studies. If we have students performing at an average range do we need to implement interventions?”
Using the same data from the district, 29 of the 658 students currently in spring sports would fall below that requirement.
The district already uses a procedure to identify students in need of academic interventions who aren't athletes. However, a certain GPA level isn’t used to identify students not involved in athletics. Each student is treated on an individual basis.
Athletes won’t the only students held to minimum academic performance standards. Blodorn said the Policy Committee is also working on building an academic requirement for students involved in all extracurricular activities. She said they plan to present a draft of that policy sometime this summer.
The district’s revised policy will appear before the School Board for a second round of discussions before taking a vote at the following meeting. The board will meet next at 7 p.m. June 11 at Village Hall.