Students who participate in athletics at Evanston Township High School on average get higher grades than student who don't.
But the figures — presented in an annual report from the Athletic Department to the school board this month — fail to account for the fact that students have to have a GPA of at least 2.0 to participate in athletics.
The GPA data, as presented in the athletic department's report.
School officials were unable to provide data that would show an apples-to-apples comparison of the GPAs between athletes and non-athletes who have at least a 2.0 GPA.
In any case, ETHS Athletic Director Chris Livatino says, he hopes in the future to bring the benefits of sports to students who don’t make the grade-point-average cut.
“I think when kids are involved in sports, or any extracurricular…they’re more connected to the school, they tend to care more about school,” Livatino said. “The second piece of it is that we monitor kids’ grades in season and are constantly giving feedback and encouragement.”
Livatino said that he frequently sees students’ grades come up and attributes this rise to their desire to stay on their sports teams. He said that the academic advantage is especially noticeable for African-American and Hispanic or Latino students.
“The difference between a student athlete and a non-athlete in those two subgroups is larger than it is for white student athletes and non-athletes,” he said. “That, for me, is one of the other major reasons why we need to look at ways we can support those students with new guidelines.”
Though students whose GPAs drop below a 2.0 get a one-semester pass to stay on the team if they bring up their grades and can be on the team for practice only, Livatino said that he’d like to test the hypothesis that extracurriculars help students improve academically.
“I want to make sure we don’t leave kids disconnected from Evanston by providing opportunities for them to still participate in sports or other extracurricular programs even when they miss the current GPA requirement,” he said.
Livatino said that these opportunities would likely include mandatory study assistance or tutoring.
Currently athletic participation is highest among white students, at 47 percent, while the participation level is 30 percent for Asians, 31 percent for blacks and 28 percent for Hispanics.