O'Fallon Progress

Research shows participating in extracurricular activities can increase student achievement

Darcy Benway
Darcy Benway

O’Fallon Township High School is proud to offer students expansive and diverse opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities. Currently, OTHS offers 26 varsity athletic teams and 66 clubs/activities. Why do OTHS educators believe extracurricular activities are important for students? Research and OTHS student data tells us how impactful extracurricular activities can be for students.

Mahoney and Cairns (1997) found that a positive connection with school was created for students who participated in extracurricular activities when their prior commitment to the school before involvement in extracurricular activities had been marginal. They discovered that a wider choice of activities resulted in a stronger effect because students’ individual needs and interests were more likely to be met.

In addition, participating in an extracurricular activity connects students more deeply to the school, its faculty, a peer group, and school values (Mahoney, 2000; Mahoney & Cairns, 1997). Jordan and Nettles (1999) found that adolescents who participated in structured activities supervised by positive adult role models were more likely to make personal investments in their schooling that may, in turn, motivate them to excel academically.

These research findings are interesting, but how does participation in extracurricular activities impact student achievement at OTHS? OTHS administrators reviewed data from our students and discovered the following:

▪  GPA of students who participated in at least one extracurricular activity at OTHS: 3.178

▪  GPA of students who did not participate in at least one extracurricular activity at OTHS: 2.425

▪  GPA of seniors who participated in at least one extracurricular activity while at OTHS: 3.137

▪  GPA of seniors who did not participate in at least one extracurricular activity while at OTHS: 2.040

The data would indicate that students who are more engaged in extracurricular activities perform better on their school work than students who are less involved in extracurricular activities.

Margo Gardner, research scientist at Columbia University’s National Center for Children and Families, used data from the National Education Longitudinal Study to research whether kids who join extracurricular activities become good students, or whether it’s good students who choose to join extracurricular activities. In her research, Gardner controlled for variables such as poverty, race, gender, test scores and parental involvement. What she found was as follows:

▪  The odds of attending college were 97 percent higher for students who took part in school-sponsored activities than for those who did not participate in any school activities.

▪  The odds of completing college were 179 percent higher.

▪  The odds of voting eight years after high school were 31 percent higher.

Research and data related to student participation in extracurricular activities indicates there is a positive correlation between extracurricular participation and student achievement. At OTHS we encourage participation in extracurricular activities as we see the academic benefits. However, we also encourage participation in extracurricular activities as we strive to promote character growth in our students. The core values listed below are the foundational pieces of our extracurricular programming and are in place to support the character development of the students we serve:

▪  Poise To act with intentional and consistent character

▪  Honor/Respect To show respect to all participants and the game or activity. To illustrate loyalty, trust, caring, sportsmanship, and service to teammates, other members, coaches, and sponsors.

▪  Commitment To be faithful to improvement through dedication, competition, mental toughness and relentless effort.

▪  Confidence To develop trust in yourself and your team through practice habits, routines, performance, game/event preparation, and relationship building.

▪  Passion To be internally motivated, to compete with a fearless attitude, to be courageous through every situation.

Extracurricular activities are an important part of a student’s educational experience. It is our hope that parents and guardians will continue to encourage their students to engage in school activities outside of the classroom and to become more involved with their school community.

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