November 13, 2004
Educators recognize that extra-curricular activities are valuable in schools. It is, however, important in this age of the federal No Child Left Behind law that schools should be organized to emphasize learning in all program offerings.
The emphasis on athletics, however, might be to the detriment of academics in Ohio's schools, where many students are sent the message that sports are more important than learning.
Sports competitions increasingly are held on school nights, even as education leaders have advocated emphasizing learning by decreasing opportunities for students to be away from home after 7 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays.
On the national level, after a yearlong study, a 44-page report, "Athletics and Achievement," was recently released by the National Association of State Boards of Education Commission on High School Athletics in An Era of Reform. The group conducted a major review of the state of high-school athletics.
The commissioners gathered information from high-school athletic directors, sports experts and others. They reviewed topics ranging from inequities in athletics funding to the role coaches play in students' lives.
This report warns policy-makers and parents of a growing culture in high-school athletics where academic priorities can easily slip through the cracks.
According to the report, state education leaders across the nation are failing "to guarantee that interscholastic athletics do not take precedence over student academic performance.''
Highlights of the commission's many recommendations to their member state boards of education:
The Web site of the Ohio High School Athletic Association says under the link for "OHSAA commitment" that the organization, to whom the state has delegated management of high-school athletics, is "committed to serving its member schools by being the nation's premier nonprofit athletic administration organization."
There is no specific emphasis on academics as a priority. By comparison, the mission statement of the Illinois High School Association, which guides that state's interscholastic athletics, says it "serves member schools by providing leadership for equitable participation in interscholastic athletics and activities that enrich the educational experience.''
This appears to be a good time for Ohio policy-makers to study the national report in light of the athletic-academic relationship in Ohio's high schools.
After Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary-high-school basketball star LeBron James went directly to the pros, he told a national ESPN audience that his idol Julius Erving was "old school," while he was "no school," referring to the fact that he skipped college.
But few students, regardless of their efforts, can jump from high school to a successful career. Exhancing academic achievement and providing young people with workforce and college preparatory skills must always be the primary objective.
is Distinguished Research Professor at the
University of Dayton and is President & Chief Executive Officer
of SchoolMatch®, a Columbus based educational auditing, research, data