VIDEO: High school student-athletes raise academic bar

Pitcher Throwing to Catcher
Roosevelt pitcher Omar Husseen practices his fastball with catcher Miguel "Marcos" Alvarez (Connor Morgan/Medill)

By Connor Morgan

Studies show that student-athletes are improving the graduation rate at Chicago Public Schools. CPS observes a “no pass, no play” policy, meaning students must earn a 2.0 gpa and pass 25 credit hours to be eligible to compete.

Northern Chicago public high school students are taking the lead in raising academic performance at some northside Chicago high schools, according to various administrators and coaches for the schools.

Erik Olson, Amundsen High School’s athletic director and data strategist, said students who participate in athletics are more likely to excel in school. Amundsen encourages all students to participate in extracurricular activities.

According to Olson, Amundsen student-athletes have a higher attendance rate by 4.5 percent and are passing more classes, on average, than students not participating in athletics.

Chicago Public Schools and the Illinois High School Association require student-athletes to maintain minimum performance standards to remain athletically eligible, said Roosevelt High School athletic director Lorin Volberding.

“If you don’t have a 2.0, you don’t play. If you’re failing more than two classes, you don’t play,” said Volberding, referring to CPS and IHSA standards.

As part of the CPS and IHSA’s “no pass, no play” rules, students not meeting requirements are ineligible to play.

Foreman High School Head Baseball Coach Rob Rittmeyer said his goal is to avoid eligibility issues and for his entire team to have passing grades for the entire season.

“My athletes are good students, but they just lack motivation for class sometimes, so my priority is to drive the importance of education,” said Rittmeyer. “I believe they can all attain passing grades, and that’s the plan.”

Students not meeting minimum requirements can become eligible through a program called Individual Study Plans, said Roosevelt High School Head Baseball Coach Raymond Denten. The study plans require a minimum of two hours weekly of teacher-supervised studying for failing students to address their grades.

Denten said the study plans motivate student-athletes to improve their grades.

“You got to give these kids a little incentive to bring their grades up,” Denten said. “A kid with a 1.7 says, ‘I really want to play.’ Well, I really want you to pass. You pass, you play.”

Amundsen High School Principal Anna Pavichevich said while grades and athletics are important, Amundsen educators seek to develop positive life traits for student-athletes.

“We’re focused on creating a successful team and program not just about being good athletes, but great human beings.”

Photo at top: Roosevelt pitcher Omar Husseen practices his fastball with catcher Miguel “Marcos” Alvarez. (Connor Morgan/Medill)