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BSA files report on its progress in supporting city athletes

Posted by Justin Rice  July 25, 2012 09:21 AM

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The Boston Scholar Athlete Program released graduation, eligibility and attendance rates for its varsity scholar-athletes during the 2011-2012 school year.

The nonprofit organization designed to support Boston public school athletics reported earlier this month that its varsity athletes averaged a 2.46 GPA this past school year. It also reported that 84 percent of the program’s seniors graduated this spring and 81 percent of seniors “graduated with a plan” to continue their education beyond high school.

“We’re really happy with the graduation rate, very happy, particularly compared to the BPS graduation rate,” BSA Executive Director Rebekah Splaine Salwasser said during a telephone interview last week.

In February, Boston public schools reported a record high graduation rate for all students, with 64.4 percent of students graduating within four years.

Three years ago, the BSA established learning centers for athletes at each of Boston’s 19 public high schools called Zones. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Suffolk Construction CEO and chairman John Fish collaborated to create the BSA after The Boston Globe ran a seven-part series in 2009 on the sad state of the district's athletic program called "Failing our Athletes."

Each Zone also has its own Zone facilitator that works the scholar athletes and helps them maintain their eligibility to play sports.

The district-wide eligibility standard for athletes is a 1.67 GPA (a C-minus average) but some schools hold their athletes to higher standards. (Boston English High had a 2.5 GPA requirement for athletes last year but will revert to the 1.67 this fall).

Eligibility rates for varsity Zone members at non-exam students this past school year increased from 87 percent in the fall to 93 percent in the spring. The rate of eligibility for student athletes at exam schools (Boston Latin, Latin Academy and the John D. O’Bryant School) ranged from 95 to 99 percent over the course of the school year.

“It hit our target for this year,” BSA Academic Associate Colin Campbell said during a telephone interview. “We want to set up realistic expectations, accurate expectation; 100 percent eligibility, that’s not realistic. ... We were very happy with [the eligibility rate.]

“We want to eventually see that continue to grow but I think it’s positive.”

The BSA noted that the figures it released are only for varsity athletes because JV and freshman rosters are inconsistently submitted by coaches and schools. Splaine Salwasser said it is also hard to pinpoint those statistics because athletes are constantly moving back and forth between JV and varsity squads.

“That’s been a challenge since our existence,” she said. “A lot of that is because a lot of the schools don’t have the numbers for JV programs. … It’s one of those things where in order to get accurate data you need to have consistent access to that data.”

The BSA is also trying to find better metrics to help them track ineligible students who often stop attending the Zone or even stop coming to school.

“We don’t necessarily know who the ineligible students are,” Splaine Salwasser said. “We’re working on how to compile a list of students who are ineligible and working with coaches and working with faculty [to get eligible].”

The data also makes it look like there is a steady decrease in Zone attendance as the school year grew older.

Splaine Salwasser and Campbell said that is partially due to the fact that more sports are played in the fall compared to the winter and spring and because there are more school breaks during the winter and spring seasons.

The average GPA of varsity scholar athletes also dipped from a 2.52 and a 2.46 in the first and second marking term to a 2.35 in the third marking term. But it bounced back up to a 2.51 in the fourth and final marking term of the school year.

Splaine Salwasser attributes that strong finish to professional development sessions they hosted for their Zone facilitators.

“We have monthly professional development for our staff,” she said. “It’s a chance for them to collaborate, for them to brainstorm on everything from curriculum to energy and enthusiasm. And we had a strong focus this year on making sure we ended the year on a good note with high energy to make sure we had the energy to encourage kids to finish strong.”

She said the Zone facilitators will undergo two weeks of training in August just before the start of the new school year and continue to attend professional development throughout the year as well.

“One of our focuses next year will be to continue to put the right people around the table and continue to have a strong facilitator team of people in the Zone every day,” she said. “And to reinforce that and support it with professional development is critical to us.

“[The facilitators] are really at the heart of the success of our program. … I think we are really excited and we are continuing to grow and continuing to challenge ourselves to make sure we are constantly providing academic support to scholar athletes. We need to make sure we achieve higher than the minimum requirement.”

About Boston Public Schools Sports Blog

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.