Extra-Curricular Activities Are the Glue to Keep Students in School, Researcher says

RIVERSIDE, Calif.

  

Extra-curricular activities, the kinds of programs most likely to be cut when state budgets shrink, may well be the glue that keeps students in school, a University of California at Riverside study indicates.

“Census statistics indicate nearly half a million students drop out of school each year, and Mexican origin youth are especially susceptible to not completing school on time” said Robert Ream, an assistant professor in UCR’s Graduate School of Education. “Our study shows that student engagement behaviors–including participating in extracurricular activities–contribute to the formation of friendship networks which arc toward educational attainment; the same behaviors detract from the likelihood that students will become susceptible to the social and behavioral influences of others who drop out of school.”

The study shows that socioeconomic disadvantage may keep Mexican American adolescents from being more engaged.

“Low-income Mexican American adolescents may be less able to participate in homework or school sports, or music because many are obligated to hold after-school jobs or are required to care for siblings while their parents are working,” Ream commented. “Enrollment fees may also discourage economically disadvantaged students from participating in extracurricular activities.”

Disengaged students are also more likely to have friends who have dropped out of school, various studies have indicated.

Ream, who conducted the study with Professor Russell Rumberger of the Gervirtz Graduate School of Education at UC Santa Barbara, said disengagement and withdrawal from school can begin as early as elementary school.

“Our study shows that what kids do impacts who they know and spend time with,” he said. “These links between engagement behaviors and friendship networks play an important role in whether or not adolescents complete high school.”

“Students need to have opportunities available in a broad range of school-related activities,” Ream said. “Drama and the arts, or sports, even the academic decathalon are engagement behaviors that help kids develop school-oriented peer networks and facilitate their ability to seamlessly navigate home and school environments.”

Ream said activities should not become victims of budget cuts and narrowly defined reforms because they also keep students involved with others who are motivated to be in school.

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