I ran across a news story today that shows once again Wisconsin is a leader in education in the U.S. WEAU-TV in Eau Claire in a recent news story states that Wisconsin has the 2nd highest high school graduation rate in the country. The Wisconsin state average high school graduation rate is 89% The Chequamegon District has a high school graduation rate of 96%! The WEAU - TV web site and a video related to this story are here.
I recently ran across the following column in this month's issue of "High School Today", a professional journal emphasizing athletics and performing arts activities. I believe this column summarizes many of the reasons why extra-curricular activities can be so important in the lives of our students. It also makes good arguments for how those activities can be important in shaping those students' future success as adults.
Life Without Interscholastic Activities Would Be Tragic
BY C.W. "BUTCH" POWELL
In today's economic climate, school systems across the country continue to look at the reduction of interscholastic activities as an effective way to make budget cuts. The results of reducing or eliminating education-based activities would be tragic.
School sports programs and other interscholastic activities are about providing an opportunity to participate — they are not about winning a state championship or college scholarship. If state titles or scholarships come to pass, they add to the experience, but they should not be the measure of success or failure.
According to a USA Today survey, 95 percent of Fortune 500 company chief executives have one thing in common: participation in education-based activity programs while in high school. Education-based activity programs provide an opportunity to learn valuable lessons that cannot be obtained in a classroom setting alone. Teamwork, sportsmanship, winning and losing while handling competitive situations, sacrifice and dedication are not the only lessons associated with participation.
School systems looking for a dropout prevention program need to look no further than activity programs, including the athletic fields of competition. One survey recently discovered that 96 percent of high school dropouts did not participate in activity programs. Participation is often a predictor of later success in college or when entering the job market. Studies have shown that benefits of activities include higher grade-point averages, better attendance records, lower dropout rates and fewer discipline problems than the general student population.
Boards of Education looking for a drug and teen pregnancy prevention program need to explore education-based activities. According to the United States Department of Education No Child Left Behind: "The Facts about 21st Century Learning" in 2002, students who spend no time in activity programs are 49 percent more likely to use drugs, and 37 percent are more likely to become teen parents than those who spend one to four hours per week in activities. After-school hours of unsupervised time for youth can lead to one or more life-altering events, Scholastic achievement can also be linked to participation in education-based activities. The College Entrance Examination Board indicated music students scored about 11 percent higher than non-music students on SAT exams. In an issue of "Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise," it was noted that students who took part in vigorous sports did approximately 10 percent better in math, science, English and social studies. Student participants also learn important lessons in time management as a result of their participation. The juggling of practice, games, travel and scholastic achievement will be invaluable as they enter adulthood.
Boards of Education generally spend only between one and three percent of their total operating budget on sports and other activity programs. Oftentimes, expenses to operate programs are generated by booster clubs, gate receipts and the business community. Decreasing the number of activities will cause irreversible harm to the development of our youth today. Community support for bonds and levies to build new schools, textbooks and teacher salaries would be adversely affected if activities are reduced or eliminated. Activities are the other half of education and participation should be strongly encouraged for all students.
C.W. "Butch" Powell is assistant executive director of the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Today we held our annual observance in honor of Veterans' Day in the high school gym. As we do every year we recognize the sacrifices made by our veterans and thank them for their part in giving us the free society we enjoy today. I want to briefly thank all the staff and students for their role in preparing and carrying out what is the most moving Veterans’ Day program I have ever been a part of. Among the speakers today was Brenda Weber, speaking of the importance of remembering POW's and MIA's. She described her efforts to see our one remaining Iraq War POW brought home. The music was outstanding and meaningful to our assembled veterans and community. The high school band played an "American Fanfare" and an "Armed Forces Salute" in which veterans from each branch of the military were recognized. The high school madrigal sang Song for the Unsung Hero" and the Grade 3-6 students performed "American Tears" . These were all moving tributes to the veterans. 1st and 2nd graders under the direction of Dolly Rand recited a poem in honor of the veterans and the essays by Mallori Zoesch, Blake Richard, Noah Peterson and Carson Scmitt all read essays they wrote in honor of Veterans Day. Following comments by Hailey Bebeau the middle school students presented gifts to each of the veterans present. From the Pledge of Allegiance led by Brent Pierce to the playing of Taps by Alex Gelina the staff and students of Chequamegon School District paid well deserved tribute to those men and women who gave so much of themselves by their military service. Student Essays and the performance of "American Tears" is available at the link below from Mrs. Armstrong's 5th grade web site. http://mrsarmstrongsfifthgrade.weebly.com/veterans-day.html
I want to compliment the students on the attentive, engaged behavior they exhibited throughout the assembly. I was very proud of them and was impressed by their sincere interest and respect for those we were honoring. I will say once again how impressed I have been over the last 2+ years by the quality of our students and their behavior and today in this assembly was no exception. This positive behavior results from a joint effort by the parents, family , friends and teachers working together to create future citizens who, among other things, appreciate the efforts of those who came before them to give them the free and open society they enjoy today. Thank you veterans!