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'No F' Policy for Student Activities Dropped in L.A.

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The Los Angeles Unified School District has dropped its policy of excluding students who fail a course from athletic and other extracurricular activities.

While voting 5 to 2 last week to drop the "no F" provision, the district's school board left intact a rule requiring a C average across all subjects for such participation.

The district, which adopted its "no-pass, no-play" rule in 1982, is believed to be the first major school system to set academic standards for participation in sports, drama, band, and other activities.

Other districts and states have since adopted such requirements, although the Los Angeles policy was among the strictest.

Supporters of the change argued that the rule had prompted some students to avoid taking challenging courses and others to drop out.

The school board's president, Jackie Goldberg, said two groups had been "ill-served" by the rule: those who "were choosing not to take advanced-level courses beyond the barest minimum" needed for college, and "marginal" students lacking motivation.

"For many of them, one 'fail' was enough to keep them out of the one thing that was keeping them in school," Ms. Goldberg said.

"Unfortunately, it has not encouraged young people to do better," added another board member, Julie Korenstein, who cited concerns by educators and parents about the growing numbers of students dropping out of school and becoming involved in gangs.

But the two members who opposed the change--the board's only black and Hispanic members--argued that changing the policy would downplay the importance of maintaining high expectations, particularly in a district that is 85 percent minority.

Studies show "institutional racism is reflected in lower expectations for minority children," said Rita Walters.

Rather than saying "it is okay to fail," added Leticia Quesada, the district should make tutoring and mentoring programs more available.

The change sends "the wrong message" at a time when business leaders and state legislators are focusing on "academic excellence," she said, and when competition for jobs and colleges is becoming more intense.--DC

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