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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Honor Rolls And Extra Roles

The High School Student Council sponsored a breakfast for all of the learners who performed at an academic level that qualified them for either the Honor Roll or the High Honor Roll. It was a great meal and a relaxing opportunity to acknowledge the dedication and commitment demonstrated by these young men and women over the course of the recently concluded ten week marking period that constituted the second quarter of the school year.

The high percentage of award recipients who evidence participation in extra-curricular activities served as a testimony of support for the research results produced by a survey administered each year by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. That annual study reports a high correlation between involvement in extra-curricular experiences and grade point averages - with those learners extending themselves in various school related activities outperforming their classmates who do not indulge in anything at school beyond their normal class schedule. The learners who engage in extra activities, whether it's band, chess club, debate, or athletics, appear to be able to translate and transfer skills (goal orientation, cooperation, communication, decision making...) and characteristics (dedication, self-discipline, commitment, practice...) between the classroom and the extra-curricular activity.

In particular, the varsity girls basketball team (presently unbeaten as they near the end of their league campaign) was represented by all but one member. These are almost the same girls who earned recognition by the state as a Scholar Athlete Team during the soccer season (where they extended their season by qualifying for the post season tournament). There are undoubtedly going to make it two athletic seasons in a row as a team of academic distinction. I can add with confidence that they not only win on the field and court, and pursue excellence in the classroom, but they consistently display evidence of great sportsmanship while competing at superior levels of performance.

I have referenced the book, Class and Schools, by Richard Rothstein, in an earlier Blog post. It's a great source of perspectives on the role of schools in addressing achievement gaps among learners. The author points to the academic advantage that learners derive from activities beyond the normal hours of the school day - "The advantage...comes mostly from the self-confidence they acquire and the awareness they develop of the world outside their homes and immediate communities, from organized athletics, dance, drama, museum visits, recreational reading, and other activities that develop their inquisitiveness, creativity, self-discipline and organizational skills." (p. 11)

For another view on factors influencing classroom achievement from outside the walls of the classroom we can read what Rothstein says - "Econometric studies show that non-cognitive skills are a stronger predictor of future earnings than are test scores. In public opinion surveys, Americans consistently say they want schools to produce good citizens and socially responsible first, and high academic second. Yet we do a poor job, actually no job at all, in assessing whether schools are generating such non-cognitive outcomes." (p. 7)

Not only did the breakfast this morning show the strong relationship between academics and extra-curricular activities, but Heatly also boasts a rather high percentage of the entire learner population at the secondary level (grades 7-12) who are involved in school related activities outside of normal school hours. One of the benefits of a small school district is that learners are afforded many opportunities to participate in programs and experiences outsde of the classroom.

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