Extracurricular Activities and the American Student

This holiday season we’re taking a break from our regular programming to offer a series of reflective blog entries in the holiday spirit. Instead of political commentary, we’re planning to wrap up 2016 by bringing you good news and promising innovations in K-12 education.

Many people think that students in the U.S. spend too much time on sports and other extracurricular activities, but there is actually some evidence that these activities are doing a lot of good.

In a 2012 article for Education Next, June Kronholz wrote about the value of extracurricular activities.

There’s not a straight line between the crochet club and the Ivy League. But a growing body of research says there is a link between afterschool activities and graduating from high school, going to college, and becoming a responsible citizen.

ednext_XVI_2_toppo_img01Sociologist James Coleman, long a student of high schools and the teen culture within them, believed that high schools could be greatly improved if they included more competitions between schools.

Coleman proposed that schools should replace the competition for grades with interscholastic academic games, “systematically organized competitions, tournaments and meets in all activities,” from math and English to home economics and industrial arts.

June Kronholz has written about spelling bees and other academic competitions here. And here’s a blog entry about a web app that hosts live, online academic competitions between students and schools.

But what about sports? Research by Jay Greene and Dan Bowen finds that high schools that devote more energy to sports also produce higher test scores and higher graduation rates.

—Education Next

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