Removing athletics would make education problems worse
Posted March 11, 2009
Updated March 12, 2009
Charles Albertson knows the importance of interscholastic athletics. He knows how they provide students incentives to do better in the classroom, how they keep students off the street and how they foster a sense of community in their schools.
Yet Albertson, a North Carolina senator from Duplin County, has proposed a bill that would suspend all athletic programs at schools deemed low-performing.
“Look, I played sports when I went to school,” Albertson said. “I know how important they are, but we rally around those that play sports, and we give them help, you know, to the coaches and the staff, which is important and it’s the right thing to do. But we’ve got to find a way to find more community support and more support for those other kids that are failing.”
If we’re trying to build community support for schools, it makes no sense whatsoever to take away the largest bond between the community and the school — sports.
Consider the number of people who take their kids out on a Friday night to watch a high school football game or the student sections at basketball games in the winter. No other activity at a school does a better job of bringing people from all over the community together.
If this bill is passed, Douglas Byrd, Hillside, James Kenan, Northern Durham, Southern Durham, Warren County, Weldon and Westover high schools would all be affected, and a total of 23 schools across the state would see their athletic programs folded.
“It seems to me like they’re trying to use athletics as the reason for the low test scores, when these are kids who are trying to do more with their education than those who just come to school from 7:30 until 2:30 every day,” said Northern Durham football coach Anthony Sullivan.
Even after being classified as a low-performing school by No Child Left Behind standards, the Hillside athletic program has sent a number of student-athletes to college, and not just on athletic scholarships.
Hillside girls’ basketball coach Ovester Grays has watched 56 of 57 players he’s coached move on to college in his 12 seasons as the Hornets’ head coach.
Football players Desmond Scott and Corey Gattis will play at Duke next fall, while Asia Williams, a member of the girls’ basketball team, will play at Wake Forest.
Albertson pointed to a study conducted by James H. Johnson at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on academics in Duplin County as the source that drove him to propose this legislation.
“The study showed that only 41 percent of our children were passing end of year reading and math tests,” Albertson said.
According to a report in the Goldsboro News-Argus, the study also showed that only 44 percent of students in Duplin County took the SAT, and the average score was more than 100 points below the state average.
But one study that involves one county out of the state’s 100 is hardly enough evidence to pass legislation that could bar athletics at more than 375 of North Carolina’s public high schools.
Throughout a phone interview conducted earlier this week, Albertson noted several times that he wanted to rally the community around all students, not just student-athletes.
“All the community has to do is make sure that 50 percent, just 50 percent of the student body, passes the end of year reading and math tests,” he said. “That’s all they have to do. Is that asking too much that at least half of the students in the school would pass?”
But Albertson never gave an example of how the community could make sure half the student body actually would pass the standardized tests. And that’s because it’s not a community problem. The problem starts at home, with parents and with the lack of leadership many underperforming students receive from them.
The bill is well-intended, but its consequences vastly outweigh the positives it seeks to accomplish.
Athletics are crucial to the high school experience. Students learn things in the athletic setting that cannot be taught in any other arena. Those who participate in interscholastic athletics have time and time again been shown to have higher grades, a higher graduation rate, fewer discipline problems and better attendance.
The fact of the matter is, not all students go to school for the books and classes. Many students go to school for the incentive of participating in athletics. As a result our society gets a better educated citizen when they graduate.
Should athletics be stripped from these low-performing schools, we will see the dropout rate increase, and the idea that we will somehow be helping these schools will be proven ineffective.
The student-athletes that are making the “good grades,” which could be anywhere from a 2.0 to a 5.0, are going to transfer to other schools to play sports. That leaves the lower-performing students in the school, and the NCLB grade will decline even more.
Though not the bill’s intention, that is the reality its implementation will cause.
“I guess the end result [Albertson] is trying to reach is admirable,” said Bill Sewell, who works with the non-profit Triangle Educational Advancement Foundation, which provides student-athletes in the Triangle college scholarships. “But punishing kids that do perform well is very unfair.”
Contact Nick Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 272-4371.