Extra- Curricular Activites Improve Students Overall Character

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Almost every high school in the U.S. offers some type of extracurricular activity, such as music, academic clubs, and sports. These activities offer opportunities for students to learn the values of teamwork, individual and group responsibility, physical strength and endurance, competition, diversity, and a sense of culture and community. Extracurricular activities provide a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom, offering students the opportunity to apply academic skills in a real-world context, and are thus considered part of a well-rounded education. Recent research suggests that participation in extracurricular activities may increase students' sense of engagement or attachment to their school, and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out (Lamborn et al, 1992; Finn, 1993). If, indeed, participation in extracurricular activities can lead to success in school, then the availability of these activities to students of all backgrounds becomes an important equity issue. This issue brief examines the relationship between extracurricular participation and student engagement in school using data from 1992 public high school seniors in the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS). The brief also explores whether the availability of these activities varies according to school characteristics, and whether participation differs according to student background and school setting.

Is participation in extracurricular activities related to students' success in school?

Indicators of successful participation in school include consistent attendance, academic achievement, and aspirations for continuing education beyond high school. Extracurricular participation(1) was positively associated with each of these success indicators among public high school seniors in 1992 (table 1). During the first semester of their senior year, participants reported better attendance than their non-participating classmates--half of them had no unexcused absences from school and half had never skipped a class, compared with one-third and two-fifths of nonparticipants, respectively. Students who participated were three times as likely to perform in the top quartile on a composite math and reading assessment compared with nonparticipants. Participants were also more likely than nonparticipants to aspire to higher education: two-thirds of participants expected to complete at least a bachelor's degree while about half of nonparticipants expected to do so. It cannot be known from these data, however, whether participation leads to success, successful students are more inclined to participate, or both occur.

Table 1. Percentage of public school seniors reporting selected indicators of school success by participation and nonparticipation in extracurricular activities, 1992

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Indicators

----------------------------------------------------------------------------No unexcused absences*

Never skipped classes*

Have a GPA of 3.0 or above

Highest quartile on a composite math and reading assessment

Expect to earn a bachelor's degree or higher

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* During first semester of their senior year.

Are extracurricular activities available to all students?

Virtually all students in public schools reported that a core of extracurricular activities was available to them, including sports, performing arts, publications, and honor societies; and all but a small percentage had access to academic clubs and student government (table 2). Slightly less available were non-academic clubs, such as vocational/professional clubs, followed by service and hobby clubs. Furthermore, despite concerns about scarce resources in schools serving poor students, no important differences in availability of extracurricular activities in relatively less affluent and more...
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