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The Georgia Board of Education has relaxed its "no-pass, no-play" rule to allow younger high-school students to compete in athletics with fewer academic credits, but the state high-school athletic association says it won't go along with the change.

According to a board spokesman, the rules were changed to allow students who falter more time to "get back on track."

Previously, second-year students were required to have earned 5 credits, and third-year students 10 credits, to compete in athletics. Now they need only 3 and 9 credits, respectively.

But William Fordham, executive director of the Georgia High School Association, which regulates interhigh-school athletics, said the association has no plans to lower its requirements.

The board of education also eliminated academic eligibility requirements for certain extracurricular activities, such as belonging to a club that fights drug abuse or serving on a homecoming court.

In addition, it dropped a provision prohibiting fifth-year students from participating in extracurricular activities.

The old rule was heavily criticized by school administrators, who said it created excessive paperwork.

The board's action last month was its second revision of the controversial rule in a year.

A task force appointed by Gov. Thomas Kean of New Jersey has released a comprehensive plan for improving students' literacy in the arts.

After a two-year study, the Literacy in the Arts Task Force last month gave New Jersey schools "a barely passing grade" for arts instruction. It concluded that schools that "deny children an understanding of the arts also deny them a powerful communications tool," according to the group's chairman, Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

According to the report, New Jersey is one of 29 states with an arts requirement for high-school graduation. But the task force notes that New Jersey students can meet the requirement by taking a course in "practical" arts, such as home economics or industrial arts.

The report also notes that most of the arts instruction in the state focuses on visual arts or music. Theater and creative-writing courses are rare, and dance courses are virtually "nonexistent."

The task force recommended that the state board call for each district to offer a comprehensive, multicultural arts program that would allow students to discover art on many levels, and that would be integrated throughout the K-12 curriculum.

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