Texas prep athletes could get more credits

July 16, 2008 4:58:53 PM PDT
Texas high school athletes could receive twice as much credit toward graduation for playing sports under a proposal before the state Board of Education. The idea to allow four years of sports to count toward graduation instead of two was brought to the board by a coach from Brenham High School. Craig Agnew said new graduation requirements that took effect with freshmen last year discriminate against athletes by cutting the time available for participation in athletics.

In all, the number of credits needed to get a diploma will increase from 24 to 26 starting with 2011 graduates.

Agnew said the new standards allow students to get four years of credit for activities such as band, choir, dance team, theater and Junior ROTC but not football, basketball, baseball and other sports.

"This is discriminatory against athletics and student athletes," Agnew told the board in a letter.

Students can now get up to two years of credit for participation in sports, which meets the current requirement of 1 1/2 years of physical education and also a half-year toward elective course requirements. A credit is equal to one year of instruction in a subject.

Agnew emphasized that backers of the plan, including the Texas High School Coaches Association "are not against increased academic rigor. We just want athletics to be on equal footing with other student activities."

Several board members have expressed interest in the proposal, which will be discussed by the board Thursday. A recent survey of school superintendents statewide will be presented to the board and is expected to show support for the idea.

Board Chairman Don McLeroy, a Republican from College Station, said he favors the change and believes a majority of the 15 board members will support it.

"I appreciate all that athletics does for kids. It's really important," McLeroy said.

Critics, including some board members, question whether such a move would lessen the emphasis on academics in Texas high schools. Agnew's proposal would allow a student to count the additional two years in athletics as part of the elective courses needed for graduation. The so-called Recommended High School Program taken by most students requires 3 1/2 years (or credits) of elective courses to graduate, as well as 1 1/2 years (or credits) of physical education.

That would mean a student using the proposed option would count four years of sports as 1 1/2 credits in physical education and 2 1/2 credits in electives. It would also mean that such students would have just one more credit for elective courses, unless they exceeded the minimums for graduation.

Under the more rigorous Distinguished Achievement Program, students take 2 1/2 credits of electives, so student athletes graduating under that plan would have to use all their electives for sports.

Other groups supporting the change are the Texas Girls Coaches Association and the Texas Athletic Directors Association.

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