Decatur to GHSA: Schedule playoff games around testing

Members of the Decatur High Bulldogs soccer team celebrate their state championship win Thursday. Five of the students had to forgo or cut short an important end of course test to make the game. Photo courtesy of Tom Williams

If the Georgia High School Association is committed to student athletes, it must look at playoff scheduling that forces teens to choose between sports and academics.

The issue came to the forefront this week when Decatur High School’s soccer team learned Tuesday night it would face East Hall High for the AAA championship title in Macon Thursday at 2:30 p.m., meaning five seniors would miss an IB exam. Most chose to skip the exam for the game, which Decatur won.

But should students have been forced to make that choice?

Writing in Vox, DHS soccer player and junior Baylen Altizer said:

It’s ridiculous that the Georgia High School Association scheduled the game during such an important test, but even without this test the game is in the middle of the day. In the middle of the week. If our friends and family want to support us, they have to risk skipping school or work. While some parents are taking time off of work, others aren’t in a position where they can simply ask for time off a few days before and get out of a whole day of work.

It feels like the Georgia High School Association has failed us, the students, in multiple ways. They made it hard for certain players and supporters to be able to attend the biggest game of the year, which my teammates and I have been working toward since preseason workouts started last August.

There are some simple and obvious solutions, such as not scheduling important games during school hours. IB an AP are two of the biggest providers of tests that colleges look at to determine college credit out of high school, and it would not have been hard for the Georgia High School Association to check the test dates and make sure there were no conflicts for players.

More Georgia schools are adopting the International Baccalaureate program, which entails a challenging curriculum, 7:30 a.m. seminars and a college-level research paper – all culminating in an IB diploma. There are now 29 IB high schools in Georgia. (It’s a difficult designation to earn due to the training required, and authorization can take two to three years.)

The AJC heard from coaches of other springs sports about increasing conflicts with AP and IB exams. At least, AP allows a makeup of its exam; IB does not except for “a circumstance of extreme nature that threatens the safety of candidates and/or teachers (for example civil unrest, natural disaster).” The internet abounds with students lamenting they couldn’t win reprieves for missing IB exams despite car accidents or the flu.

The Decatur players were not in danger of failing to earn a high school diploma, only the IB diploma. Besides the prestige, what does the IB diploma provide students?

Consider what DHS goalie Theo Davis did. He stayed behind Thursday at Decatur High to take an hour of the 2.5 hour IB exam. He traveled by car to Macon, arriving to applause as he sprinted onto the field to join the game already underway.

Why subject himself to so much stress?

Here is what Theo told the AJC:  “I’m going to Emory. If I get the [IB] diploma, I get 24 college credits, almost a whole year. If I don’t get it, I only get six credits. I only took half the test, but I believe I’ll have the required average in history to get my diploma.”

Decatur Superintendent David Dude is unhappy about what his students faced and sent this letter to Gary Phillips, executive director of the Georgia High School Association. More school leaders ought to speak up about this scheduling issue that affects all spring sports and all IB schools.

Dear Mr. Phillips,

The City Schools of Decatur is extremely proud of the performance of our boys’ soccer team. These student-athletes have worked hard for many years to achieve such a high honor. They have contributed similar dedicated effort to their academic work, most notably as part of our International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

On Thursday, they were scheduled to take an IB exam; the culminating activity of two years of intense coursework. They were also scheduled to compete in the state championship game. Unfortunately, those two events were scheduled in such a way as to preclude the students from participating in both.

Immediately after finding out the boys were assigned to a 2:30 pm game time in Macon, DHS staff took action to try to address this situation. They worked with the IB program and determined the maximum flexibility they could offer was to begin the exam 30 minutes early. In order to do this, all students taking that exam had to begin earlier. Other staff worked with GHSA to attempt to identify solutions regarding the game time. They were told that the only option was to find two schools willing to swap times with them, along with the agreement of the opposing team. Not surprisingly, the other schools were not willing to switch times, likely for the same reasons facing our district.

Five of these student-athletes were placed in an untenable situation. Three of them chose to forego the IB test in order to make it to Macon in time for the game, and one chose to take a portion of the exam in order to obtain partial credit, allowing him to arrive at the game just moments before it started. The fifth student received permission for a course revision not requiring a test.

What is most frustrating about this situation is that it was entirely avoidable. It is difficult to comprehend how GHSA came to the decision to schedule championship games during the school day during the busiest assessment window of the school year. Offering the games on evenings and/or weekends would have not only allowed these students to partake in both the academic and athletic achievements they had earned, but it would also have allowed peers and parents greater opportunity to support the team. I respectfully request that GHSA review the processes that led to this decision and revise accordingly; placing student interests as the primary criteria in decision making.

Sincerely, Dr. David Dude Superintendent

Reader Comments 0

34 comments
billburton
billburton

Another issue that the GHSA needs to address is the site of the soccer championship matches.  With 90+% of the top soccer programs being in the metro Atlanta area, it would make a lot more sense to schedule these matches at Emory or Kennesaw State. The GHSA and the competing schools would all make much more revenue as the crowd sizes would be much larger.

tierneymike
tierneymike

Two-word solution: Sunday competition.

redweather
redweather

Although I think students athletes are typically given too much slack, it makes no sense to schedule playoff games and tests on the same day. Students should not be forced to choose.

denniscbrown
denniscbrown

Good for Superintendent Dude. This is not a new issue. Every year students are compromised regarding SAT's, ACT's PSAT's, and now IB exams in terms choosing between avoidable athletic contests. What is even more interesting, however, is the fact our school principals vote and make decision on the GHSA policies. They could if desired, force the GHSA officials to make as policy, scheduling games in ways avoiding the career and life-influencing standardized national tests that are required for many colleges and/or scholarship programs. Perhaps superintendents such as Dude need to start at their own school principals' level. While it may provide some inconveniences for the GHSA, it can be done. And the question of does the tail wag the dog, or the dog wag the tail be avoided. 

Long Memories
Long Memories

http://www.ghsa.net/sites/default/files/documents/financials/GHSA-Budget-2016-17.pdf 


http://www.ghsa.net/sites/default/files/documents/financials/GHSA_Audit_Report_2015.pdf

Over 5 million cash on hand (not counting pensions).  Putting over 100 grand annually into their pensions but spending only $15,000 to evaluate referees.  Don't believe they do background checks on their officials like many local sports programs do.  But now with concentrating the games in one location,  they have been able to increase their revenue and divert it from the schools.  But hey its for the kids!

GA Highlander
GA Highlander

Still unclear on what people think the GHSA should have done differently.


The soccer state finals have been on the calendar for months. If this conflict with the test were so glaring, why did no one object to the schedule until 2-3 days before the games were to begin?

State championships and finals have been played during school hours for quite a while. If superintendents think this is so bad, why complain now? 

Once Decatur got scheduled for that time slot, is the GHSA supposed to take appeals and then rework the whole schedule for Decatur? And then Starrs Mill or some other school that got moved to accommodate Decatur, then they will have some good reason why they can't play at that time. if you've got a problem with the schedule, announce that BEFORE hand. Don't put the ghsa in that spot.

So yes, Longmemories, I am blaming Decatur for their part in it. You could just as easily blame the other schools for having no empathy for decatur's plight and refusing to help them. And no I am not a GHSA official but I do know how things work and don't presume the GHSA to be idiots just because i am ignorant to all that goes into it. 


the GHSA does some dumb stuff , like the rims at the basketball finals. Can't defend that.

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

@GA Highlander Yo do realize that the schools do not know if they will be affected by time slots until they actually get into playoffs, right?  These are students first, and the GHSA should recognize that and work their schedule - especially during spring testing periods for AP, IB, EOCT and final exams - to accomodate that fact.

GHSA is filled with old men who line their pockets and are incompetent, as the basketball championships this year proved.  We need to toss them all out of their jobs and find some new people to manage sports programs in Georgia. 

Wrecker
Wrecker

@GA Highlander Yeah, yeah, that's all great.  Tell me again why these contests need to be held during school/instruction/testing hours?  Why should any sport be more important than the true purpose of our schools, to educate our children?

Wrecker
Wrecker

I agree that the GHSA is extremely inflexible and should avoid scheduling events during school hours, particularly at the end of the school year when so much testing occurs. However, this is good experience for these kids to evaluate their priorities.  Throughout their lives, they will be forced to budget their time and energy.  It is somewhat disappointing that so many chose athletics over academics in this situation, even if it was a championship game.


I am not debating the worth of high school athletics, just that academics should almost always come first.

JonsThreeCents
JonsThreeCents

Given the scheduling issues, a rather obvious step would be to stop trying to shove the ever growing number of championship games into a single location.  The use of multiple venues would allow for later starts, by requiring fewer games per day at each venue.  

Even that isn't going to be perfect however.  You could have had a similar issue had this particular match ended up being slated for, say, Savannah at 4pm.

Long Memories
Long Memories

@JonsThreeCents But then it would be hard for the GHSA to control the money and put more of it into their fat pensions instead of the kids playing close to home at a decent time.


longmemories
longmemories

GHSA is all about fattening the pension of its top officials.  It is a private agency that needs to go.  It is something every year with these clowns that have no common sense.

Retiredmathteacher
Retiredmathteacher

GHSA needs several changes in direction.  As a body, they consistently make inconsistent decisions, and they brissle when anyone calls their hand.  At that point schools are told that nothing can be done.  No amount of logic, preparation, or pointing out an obvious discrepancy with their own rules will stop the authoritarian tone of GSHA officials.  


At least IB gets a little break from their own brand of this is the way it is, and there is no appeal or accomodation but for a very few instances in that the reason IB allows no makeup tests is that they release the entire test 24 hours after the end of the exam period.  That way, everyone can see and evaluate the test, unlike the state of Georgia where you will be fired and decertified if you look at an EOCT beyond due dilligence in giving the test to a room full of students.  IB will also listen to anyone's evaluation of the questions on an IB exam, and they have even been known to throw out or even rescore exams based on feedback given.  Can you imagine the DOE doing that in Georgia??


Of course, schools and school boards, including the state BOE could take care of this problem, but given it is a sports vs. academics issue, that is not very likely, is it??

Starik
Starik

Decatur again. Decatur, where the most liberal of the liberal and the social justice warriors are careful to live.  Surrounded by DeKalb, where things are... different.  DeKalb people who do not live in this little city have to use private schooling.  Can't pay?  Home school, drop out, move or suffer. 

Long Memories
Long Memories

@Starik These are hardworking scholars who deserve your respect. I am not from anywhere near Decatur but I certainly am proud of these youth and they will continue to contribute to society.


GA Highlander
GA Highlander

Did the Decatur superintendent and athletic director and coach just now discover that the GHSA puts on state championships in several sports during school hours?

Did they suddenly realize deep into the playoffs that the schedule for the soccer championships might call for a game that starts before school lets out? The schedule has been out for months. It's 3 days at Mercer, it's 4 games per day, and the first one each day starts at 12. That's Thursday, Friday and Saturday. 

Decatur should've known they were at risk for being assigned a noon or 2:30 game on that day. Instead they gambled that they wouldn't and lost.

Decatur could have seen this coming weeks and talked with the GHSA about scheduling and made a request. That's why the GHSA waits to assign the games as late as possible because of special requests and travel considerations since some schools are a lot farther from Macon than others. But Decatur waited until after the AAA boys game got assigned and then figured that the GHSA was just going to let them swap with somebody else. If the GHSA grants that, then other schools are complaining that they're getting jerked around and inconvenienced.

Bottom line is that Decatur missed the deadline to control their destiny and wants to blame the GHSA.







longmemories
longmemories

@GA Highlander This is the biggest load of crap I have read yet.  Blaming Decatur for GHSA's stupidity and intransigence is absurd.  You must be a GHSA ;official.  You have reached the end of a lot of peoples patience.  Expect changes shortly.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@longmemories @GA Highlander GHSAA has been run for years like a good ol' boys' fiefdom. Perhaps the legislature should step in.  Don't think the state DOE will--it has been co-opted.

kms1313
kms1313

@GA Highlander Decatur could not have seen this coming weeks ago because the GHSA only assigns classifications to game times once the participants are determined so that they "can take everything into consideration, such as travel, etc." 


Yes, the game dates and times may be listed but classifications are not assigned until participants are determined.  The GHSA failed on this once again, since they knew Decatur was an IB school and had testing yet still assigned them in a time slot that did not work for them---then placing the onus on Decatur to find someone to change the game time.


Again, will be swept under rug, no one will pay for the mistake because the people working there have more job security than a Supreme Court Justice.

HIbought theRefs
HIbought theRefs

GHSA officials are just a bunch of dumb old men. No WAY should any Final Four game be scheduled during the school day. After the debacle with the state basketball championships, they should all be fired.  Students first, athletes second, and make sure that the fields and equipment meet specifications.

L_D
L_D

IIRC, One year one of the spring teams at our high school had to choose between the graduation ceremony and a championship game. There has to be a better way to schedule athletic events.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

I must point out that only 29 schools have the IB curriculum.  How many IB-participating schools, besides DHS, were in the soccer finals?


Even saying that, though, the finals for all sports should be scheduled for the Saturdays and Sundays, not during the school week and day.


Let the church pastors be mad.

JonsThreeCents
JonsThreeCents

@MaureenDowney  Likely because starting them at 4p adds even more days to an already tight schedule.  And that creates more opportunity for conflict.    

And the crowding gets get worse next year when an additional classification is added & creates two more (1 girls, 1 boys) championship matches.

Intteach
Intteach

@Wascatlady I am sure many more had an AP exam, though. I think it is ridiculous to schedule any sports event during testing season on a regular school day. Just shows where our priorities are.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@Intteach @Wascatlady Many more atheletes statewide missed AP exams -- but they can make those up. I am hearing from track and field athletes as those state meets were this week and last. And I have talked to golf and swimming folks who ran into problems. I think it's terrible to miss an AP exam -- that should be avoided as well -- but this IB policy of no makeups is a real problem for students.

I agree that the daytime schedules are a problem. Not sure why the rule cannot be that everything starts at 4 or later. 


Wrecker
Wrecker

@MaureenDowney @Intteach @Wascatlady As you pointed out above, the no makeups policy is because the test is released at the same time to all schools.  Preventing cheating on the test is much more important than an athletic contest, even a championship.

Terry O'Brien Roth
Terry O'Brien Roth

State championships for Boys Track started yesterday, I believe. Some of those athletes had similar choices to make. I understand this is an opinion piece, but your initial reporting would have been more powerful if you had broadened the focus of the story to other sports and athletes from other schools.

AJC  Get Schooled
AJC Get Schooled

I checked on state track finals and was told the competition started later in the day to avoid test conflicts. Send me the school names and I will call. mdowney@ajc.com