For the second time in less than seven years the Salem School Committee has raised the academic bar for students who wish to participate in extra-curricular activities at Salem High School.
Students who fail more than a single class will no longer be eligible to participate in sports or any other extra-curricular activities, such as drama club or the math team. The old policy allowed students to fail two classes and still be eligible. Most students at Salem High take eight classes per quarter.
The new policy also requires that a student who fails one class or receives more than two D's attend a mandatory study hall to remain eligible.
"If you know in advance what the bar is, what the standard is, most kids will rise to that standard," said Salem High Principal Dave Angeramo. "And if they know that they have to pass them all to not be on probation, most kids will do that."
The new eligibility requirement is part of an ongoing process to raise the standards in the city's public schools, which are under pressure from the Massachusetts Board of Education to improve MCAS scores and overall academic performance.
There was some discussion recently of letting students pass back onto teams as incentive to improve academic performance. The school has never allowed that, and the decision was ultimately made to keep it that way.
"You're either eligible or you're not at the beginning," Angeramo said. "Basketball for example, second quarter grades come out, second quarter is when the state tournament is. So now you have a kid join the team for the state tournament who hasn't played all year? We just didn't think that was fair."
Salem's athletes already had one of the strictest eligibility policies in the Northeast Conference. Beverly has the strictest on the North Shore, allowing students to play sports only if they pass all of their classes with no more than two D's.
"If they're failing two or more classes there's a much bigger issue than athletics," Angeramo said. "So that's the way were looking at it."
The minimum requirement as dictated by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association is that students pass four classes each quarter.
"We wanted something that would raise the standard but still be reasonable," Angeramo said.