The National Federation of State High School Associations recently published updated information asserting the value of participating in interscholastic activities. The data continues to support, with overwhelming evidence, that being part of school programs enriches the lives of millions of students each year on a national scale, including nearly 90,000 in Wisconsin.
The “Case for High School Activities” presents volumes of research and survey data that dispels myths or misconceptions that involvement in school activities may be a diversion to a quality education.
Participation the Key
Students that participate and are engaged in school programs, whether it’s athletics or any other extracurricular activity, have less truancy, lower drop-out rates, fewer disciplinary issues and better grade point averages on average than their peers that have no involvement. In 2007, the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reported that students who took part in more vigorous sports like soccer or football performed nearly 10 percent better in math, science, English and social studies classes. Similar findings were produced by a survey in Minnesota in 2007.
It may also be undeniable that involvement in high school activities bodes well for participants after high school as well. According to researchers in a 2005 study, participation in extracurricular activities gives all students--including those from disadvantaged backgrounds and those without stellar academic accomplishments in high school--measurable improvements on college admission exam scores. Furthermore, students who compete in sports in high school were more likely than those not participating to be active in volunteering, voting, speaking publicly and being aware of current events.
Similar results were confirmed in a 2003 Journal of Adolescent Research report. It indicates high school extracurricular participation leads to fewer school drop outs, greater community involvement, greater academic achievement and a plethora of other positive outcomes. Perhaps the most important impact of participation in high school activities is the short- and long-term personal and emotional benefits that lead to making appropriate choices. According to a United States Department of Education article published in 2002, those who have no involvement in interscholastic activities are 49 percent more likely to use drugs and 37 percent more likely to become teen parents.
Their Impact and Value
The volume of materials and information supporting the values and life-long lessons learned through interscholastic activities is vast. However, we must be careful not to take extracurricular opportunities for granted or underestimate the impact they have on schools and a school’s community.
Interscholastic events are one of the largest windows into what is being taught and learned in our schools. There is no doubt that great things are being learned in traditional classrooms to prepare students for life beyond school; however, access to these learning environments are far less common for those outside the school. This fact makes school activity programs–proclaimed as extensions of the traditional classroom–even more valuable.
Therefore, it is increasingly important to demonstrate to those that live, work and pay taxes in the community the value of extracurricular activities. In the current climate of tightening school budgets and referendums that threaten to reduce funding for extracurricular programs, it is imperative for schools to embrace school activities that nurture its students.
Those school districts electing to consider reducing or eliminating school activities must also consider the consequence of such a decision.
Here’s where schools face a dilemma.
With school choice a viable option through open enrollment or private school enrollment, many families may choose neighboring schools or districts that offer those same programs considered to be vulnerable at a student’s current school. It’s not difficult to envision the ramifications of schools eliminating opportunities. Student allocation dollars will follow those students to their school of choice, leaving even less resources available for the district they abandon. If there is a mass exodus, which is quite conceivable in some districts, the fallout would be devastating to schools and their communities.
Typically, the average cost of extracurricular programs is less than one percent of most school budgets, making them a fantastic bargain and value. This fact, combined with the unintended consequences of a districts considering either reducing or cutting its programs, makes extracurricular activities a resource schools must embrace and protect.