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Guest Article
Originally printed in Missouri's ACDA newsletter, "The Reporter," Winter, 2008
Extra-Curricular Advocacy
Beth Dampf, MCDA President-Elect

Throughout this past year, I have had a wonderful experience as I have pursued my masters degree in secondary administration.  With this adventure, I have had the opportunity to research many educational topics, one of particular interest dealt with the importance of extra-curricular activities and the secondary school student. 

In a time when school structures and the academia decline of America’s students are forever in the public eye, it is important to reexamine the rationale of specific programs.  As school budgets are stretched to the limits and with the scrutiny of the public in regard to the attainment of academic excellence, administrators are often withdrawing the funds used for extra-curricular activities to address these concerns.   However, research continues to show a direct correlation between student success and out-of-school activity involvement.

In 1918, the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education issued the Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education.   The primary intent of this commission was the formation of goals which in turn would lead to the restructuring of America’s rapidly growing secondary schools.  The principles adopted by the Commission of the Reorganization of Secondary Education would not only confront the issues of educational reform as a whole, but also the issues presented within the individual student’s abilities and goals. 

The “seven Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education were established and are as follows:  Health, Command of Fundamental Processes, Worthy Home Membership, Vocation, Civic Education, Worthy Use of Leisure Time and Ethical Character” (Raubinger, Rowe, Piper, West, 1969).  

In looking at these seven principles, three are directly applicable to the students of the twenty-first century.  Programs that deal with Health, Worthy Use of Leisure Time and Ethical Character are certainly appropriate in discussing today’s student activities.  

As  research continues to show a correlation with out-of-school activities and “an improved educational level, more interpersonal competencies, higher aspirations and a better attention level, increased critical thinking and personal and social maturity, higher motivation”, participation in these activities will continue to escalate (Moriana, Alos, Alcala, Pino, Heruzo, Ruiz, 2006).

According to the National High School Activities Association, “at a cost of only one to three percent (or less in many cases) of an overall school’s budget, high school activity programs are one of the best bargains around” (The Case for High School Activities).  Student activities such as athletics, the fine arts, vocational clubs and other specialty areas often provide  opportunities for students to be “successful and. . . obtain longed-for positive recognition” (Levine, 2005).  The Search Institute indicates research which supports the concept that students need to be involved in “structured activities” and these activities are not “extra” as the term extracurricular implies, rather they are at the very heart of education (Draayer, Riehlkepartain, 1995).

“Studies have indicated that students who participate in art activities are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, four times more likely to participate in math and science fairs, three times more likely to hold student government positions, and three times more likely to win an award for school attendance”.  It is also proven that students that participate in the arts score higher in the areas of “creative thinking, language fluency, originality, and elaboration” (Abboud, Kim, 2006). 

The College Board has provided evidence that “students with just a half-year of arts coursework averaged a 7-and 10-point gain in verbal and math (Scholastic Assessment Tests-SAT) respectively.   After four years of coursework in music, students averaged 49 points higher on the combined verbal and math SAT scores” (College Board’s study as cited in Jensen, 2001).  This supports the theory that the study of music over a period of time, because scores increase each year students are involved in the arts” (Jensen, 2001). 

There are also similar results in regard to college entrance exams and those students who participate in the visual arts.  These students scored an “average of 47 points higher on the math and 31 points on the verbal portions” (Jensen, 2001).  The greatest benefit according to the National Association of Music Education, students who participate in the arts outscore non-participants on the SAT.  “In 2005, SAT takers with coursework/experience in music performance scored 56 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and 39 points higher on the math portion that students with no coursework or experience in the arts” (The National Association for Music Education). 

According to UCLA professor of education, James Catterall there is a definite positive relationship between music and academic success.  Catterall compared two groups of students, both from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.   All students were in grades 8 through 12, however one group participated in music lessons while the other did not.  The students who participated in music lessons “increased their math scores significantly as compared to the nonmusic control group. . . reading, history, geography and even social skill soared by 40 percent” (Catteral as cited in Jenson, 2001). 

According to the brochure, The Many Benefits of Music Education produced by the Music Educators National Conference, schools that maintain music programs have graduation rates at 90.2 percent compared to 72.9 percent when music programs are not part of the school’s structured programs (Music Educators National Conference).

Research continues to confirm what those of us involved in the arts have always known, there is a direct correlation between out-of school activities and student success.  With the nation’s focus on the attainment of academic standards, the role of extra-curricular programs is seen as an enhancement for students, even if the emphasis is not academic in nature. 

It is important that schools, churches and communities join forces to provide opportunities for social growth and life long learning situations. 

Abboud, Soo Kim & Kim, Jane.  (2006).  Top of the Class:  How Asian Parents Raise
     High Achievers-And How You Can Too.  New York:  Berkley Publisher Groups.

Draayer, Don & Roehlkepartain, Eugene C. (1995).  How Asset Building for
     Youth Can Unify a School’s Mission.  Retrieved from

Jensen, Eric.  (2001).  Arts with the Brain in Mind.  Alexandria, VA:  Association for
Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Levine, Mel.  (2002).  A Mind at a Time.  New York:  Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Moriana, Juan Antonio, Also, Francisco, Alcala, Rocio, Pino, Maria Jose, Heruzo, Javier,
Ruis, Rosario. (2006).  Extra-curricular activities and academic performance in
secondary students.  Electronic Journal of Research in Educational Psychology, 4.
Retrieved from http://www.investigacion-

Music Educators National Conference.  (2007).  The Many Benefits of Music Education.
[Brochure].  Reston, VA:  Author.

National High School Activities.  The Case for High School Activities.   Indianapolis,
IN:  Author.

Raubinger, F. M., Rowe, H. G., Piper, D. L., West, C. K.  (1969).  The Development
     of  Secondary Education.  New York:  MacMillan.

The National Association for Music Education (2007).  The Power of Music. . . Changing
     Lives.  [Brochure].  Reston, VA:  Author.  

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