Plan would closely monitor students, offer mentorship to succeed

Ken Yarnell isn’t convinced the Beaverton School District’s policy of removing an academically underperforming student from his or her athletic team is fulfilling its intended goal these days.

“I think we have a policy not fitting our reality,” the Aloha High School principal told the School Board on Monday night. “The best intervention isn’t removal from a team.”

Rather, a targeted, structured intervention on behalf of teachers, parents and coaches should be implemented to get the struggling student back on a promising academic path.

That’s the recommendation a group of district administrators proposed to the board at its monthly business meeting at the Central Administration Office on Merlo Road.

The plan would modify the existing policy, which renders student-athletes who fall below a “C” average or earn a failing grade on mid-term report cards ineligible if they fail to improve within seven days.

With the new policy, the academic performance of all students taking part in Oregon School Activities Association-sanctioned activities would be closely monitored. Those earning failing grades would have five days to raise their average. Those who fall short would be required to take part in a multifaceted academic support program to stay on his or her team.

The program involves a collaborative approach among students, parents and staff, including specific expectations, interventions and weekly monitoring and mentoring to support success. The district superintendent would set standards to promote consistency among schools and activities.

Westview High School’s Athletic Director Rob Casteel, one of the three administrators presenting the proposal, likened the policy to a binding contract.

“A student-athlete signs it, and once it isn’t being fulfilled, remove them from participating in their sport,” he said. “If they’re fulfilling it, the way grades are done now, it takes time to make changes. This is an important opportunity to help guide them. A lot of students don’t have the support system they need. ‘Work harder’ isn’t enough of a message, and ‘You’re done with athletics’ is not enough of a message.”

While receptive to the idea, board members expressed concerns that the policy unfairly favors only struggling student-athletes and doesn’t allow enough time for meaningful improvement.

“One of my concerns is about students not involved in sports who are struggling,” said Susan Greenberg, one of the board members. “What is their support system?”

Yarnell explained that non-athletes also would have access to the intervention resources, while student-athletes would have to maintain the academic standards in the school year prior to their team participation.

District administrator Matt Casteel said the monitoring aspect could serve as a preemptive measure to keep students from slipping with an “F” mark or subpar grade point average.

“If that’s what we watch and watch it closely, that’s what we’re going to catch,” he said.

Board member Donna Tyner showed support for the policy change, a second draft of which the board will review at an upcoming meeting.

“I’m really excited about the proposed language,” she said. “I think it’s really going to be good for the kids.”

Mary VanderWeele said she favored the changes, provided struggling students received mentoring beyond the time they play on sports teams.

“Treating students more consistently makes more sense,” she said. “I think that’s a great first start.”

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