The Importance of Student Programs and Participation
Thinking back to your high school days, what comes to mind? Playing in a big game in front of your community, bonding with your teammates on a long bus ride to an away game, attending a school play, or rooting on your school with friends and classmates at a State Championship might be a few of the memories that make the list. Experiences like those develop a sense of school pride, and a motivation to excel that can last a lifetime.
When students choose to participate in activities, they are given an opportunity to build self-esteem, responsibility, pride, and respect for their teams, their schools and themselves. These characteristics, which can be developed in the classroom writing papers or taking lecture notes, are strengthened through activity involvement.
The mission of the WIAA is to assist member schools in operating student programs that foster achievement, respect, equity, enthusiasm and excellence. Statistics have proven that one of the most important benefits of extracurricular activities is that they increase student achievement.
A recent article by Mark Lucas in the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) High School Today publication titled “Athletics, Fine Arts Hurt by Educational Reforms” references the findings of a study performed by H.W. Marsh and S. Kleitman, which was conducted over a period of six years and included more than 12,000 participants (page 22).
“The study concluded that school athletic participation benefited 20 of the 21 schooling outcomes that were studied, including academic grades, homework, educational aspirations, self-esteem, number of university applications and the highest educational level attained. The study’s final conclusion was that even when schools were facing financial problems and budget cuts, they strongly recommended that athletic programs be retained.”
Lucas also presents data compiled by the National Education Longitudinal Study:
“It was determined that participants in any extracurricular activity in high school had significantly fewer unexcused absences; three times as many participants had a grade-point average higher than 3.0; 50 percent more achieved the highest quartile on math and reading assessments; and 20 percent were expected to go on and obtain a bachelor’s degree in higher education.”
In the NFHS publication, The Case for High School Activities, another study by Gary Overton found lower dropout rates and higher graduation rates for high school athletes. The findings noted a miniscule 0.6% dropout rate for athletes while the corresponding rate for non-athletes was 10.32%. Graduation rates averaged 99.4% for athletes compared to 93.5% for non-athletes. Overton’s study also concluded that students who spend no time in extracurricular activities are 49% more likely to use drugs and 37% more likely to become teen parents than those who spend one to four hours per week in extracurricular activities.
One of the primary goals of the WIAA is to emphasize interscholastic activities as an integral part of the total education process. With state-wide budget cuts, and the decrease in funding for student programs resulting in increased pay-to-play fees, the WIAA’s commitment to achieving its goal is stronger than ever.
An organization working to address the funding gap is Seattle-based InvestED (invested.org) which is committed to helping students in need. As stated on its website, InvestED provides “short-term, item-specific, need-based funding – items such as shoes, coats, glasses, sports equipment, and academic fees.” Last year, InvestED provided aid to 16,241 students in over 636 schools.
Other fundraising options are always available to students to collect adequate funds and have required schools and teams to get creative. Some schools across the state even offer different ways of offsetting the cost to play by doing community service. The fees are not there to prevent kids from participating, but rather a necessary means to keep the opportunity available.
Ultimately, the values and lifelong skills that are established through extracurricular activities are priceless. Activity participation lays the networking foundation as it links teens with peers who tend to be academically focused. It is in the best interest of our youth to preserve these programs so that the benefits of participation can be reinforced and carried with them for life.