Almost every high school in the U.S. offers some type of extracurricular activity- music, sports, and academic clubs, etc. These activities provide opportunities for students to learn the values of individual and group responsibility, physical strength and endurance, diversity, and competition. These extracarriculars provide a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom, allowing students to apply academic skills in a real-world context, and are thus considered part of a well-rounded education that public schools include.
It is important that each child is given an equal opportunity to participate in extra courses beyond the classroom. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “Virtually all public schools have extracurricular activities available for students, including sports, performing arts, publications, and honors societies. Furthermore, despite concerns about scarce resources in schools serving poor students, no important differences in availability of these activities were found” (Finn 2005). Regardless of whether the schools attended are large or small, in rural, urban, or suburban settings, they all have extra programs to offer students.
Research included in author Lamborn Brown’s book, Putting School in Perspective, suggest that participation in extracurricular activities may increase students’ sense of engagement or attachment to their schools, and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out. The National Education Longitudinal Study found that there is a strong correlation between extracurricular participation and student engagement at public schools, and it is important that all students have this opportunity. This study continued to explain the relationship between activities and students’ success in school: “Indicators of successful participation in school include academic achievement, consistent attendance, and aspirations for continuing education beyond high school. Extracurricular participation was positively associated with each of these success indicators among public high school students” (O’Brien 2008). During the first semester of school, participants reported better attendance than their non-participating classmates. Students who are involved are three times as likely to perform in the top quartile on a composite math and reading assessment compared to those who are not. These statistics support the claim that students who are involved in school activities, are more likely to succeed.
While looking at the positives of being involved in extracurriculars, it is also important to see who is taking advantage of them. Keleese Edwards explains this further in her article Student Activities for Students at Risk: “About four of every five students are involved in at least one extra activity. Sports have the widest participation, followed by performing arts and academic clubs. Honor societies, publications, and student government are less popular, but still important and effective for students” (Edwards 2000). Although differences in availability of extracurricular opportunities between less affluent and more affluent schools were almost nonexistent, students of low socioeconomic status (SES) are less likely to participate in activities. The involvement of low SES students is consistently lower than that of high SES students in each type of activity, with the exception of vocational or professional clubs, such as Future Teachers of America, in which low SES students were twice as likely to participate. Edwards continues: “Some researchers have suggested that the social context of the school might have a positive or negative influence on student behavior, depending on whether the individual student is in the relative minority or majority in the school. However, this data shows that regardless of their socioeconomic background, low SES students participate at the same rates whether they attend a more or less affluent school” (Edwards 2000). Schools all throughout the nation have a wide variety of students, coming from all types of backgrounds, participating in extracurricular activities. These are the students who are excelling and showing outstanding performance.
It is clear that participation and success are strongly associated. This is evidenced by participants’ better attendance and higher levels of achievement. The data indicates that differences in involvement are not related to differences in availability, as extracurricular activities are available to virtually all high school students; regardless of the affluence, size, location or minority status of the schools students attend. Public schools have such a wide variety of extra opportunities, and benefit all students. It is important that students are aware and encouraged to be involved.
Edward, Kl., & D’Onofrio, A. (2000). Retrieved from Student Activities for Students At
Risk. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.
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Lamborn, S.D., Brown, B.B., Mounts, N.S., & Steinberg, L. (1992). Retrieved from
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O’Brien, E. (n.d.). (2008). Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs95/web/95741.asp