Extracurricular participation makes a difference

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

April 9, 2012

Much has been said about the importance extracurricular activities play in the lives of students and the positive impact of these offerings, whether they are athletic, arts or academic programs.

These types of activities provide our students with valuable lessons that cannot necessarily be taught in the traditional classroom. By participating in extracurricular activities, students acquire the kinds of “soft skills” that prospective employers are looking for, including work ethic, punctuality, teamwork, problem-solving and commitment, among others.

Today, I want to make the case for athletics. When school districts look at budget cuts, it seems as though the first area that critics of sports go after is the athletic budget, football in particular. Did you know that the budgeted expenses this year for all extracurricular activities in Texas makes up just 2.9 percent of total operating costs? That’s for all the state’s school districts combined.

In SAISD, about 2.5 percent of the budgeted general fund expenditures this year are for extracurricular activities. To put that into perspective, salaries and benefits for all employees make up about 85 percent of the district’s total operating budget. So, as you can see, the investment in extracurricular activities is nominal for the return.

There are numerous studies that analyze the benefits of student participation in the arts and athletics. One study, with athletics as its focus, is by Dr. Roger Whitley in North Carolina, conducted in collaboration with the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. Here are some statistics that revealed the differences between student athletes and non-athletes in a number of areas.

Athletes

Non-athletes

Grade-point average

2.83 - 2.91

1.84 - 2.03 (3-year range)

Absences

6.52 days

12.57 days

Discipline referrals

30.5%

40.3%

Dropout rate

.7%

8.98%

Graduation rate

99.56%

94.66%

Note: Data represent a three-year average

The study did have limitations. Participation was voluntary, and it did not deal with cause and effect. However, according to Whitley, “The research shows that participation in athletics serves as a possible motivational factor for students.” He further states that there is a direct relationship between participation in athletics and academic success.

This study, combined with others, and the positive impact I have seen extracurricular activities have on students’ lives lead me to say let’s continue to support our students in their respective activities. Show them that, at the very least, you know they are involved.

Our students are involved in ways that bring our community together – to cheer from the bleachers at a football game, stand in ovation at a drama production or offer high-fives at academic events. Together, we are watching as our students are molded into leaders.

 

Best Regards,

Dr. Sylvester Perez

Interim Superintendent