This is the first of several upcoming feature articles we are publishing which were written by Boothbay Region High School’s AP Language students. According to BRHS AP Language teacher Mark Gorey, the articles are a different incarnation of their Champions of Change proposals. One of the requirements for this assignment was to cite research sources.
At this time nearly 20% of the BRHS student population, of 177 students, do not participate in sports, clubs, arts, etc. I’ve grown up participating in activities my whole life. I was lucky enough to have parents that instilled a sense of involvement and motivation in me. Specifically, I have played basketball for a large portion of my life, and have run cross country for the Boothbay Elementary and High School teams. In March of 2019 13 other girls and I on the Boothbay Lady Seahawks basketball team brought home a Class C State Championship title for our school. This not only brought a trophy to the trophy case, but a sense of pride, accomplishment, and joy to the community, school, and ourselves. At the Boothbay Region High School, over time I have realized the amount of interest and participation in extracurricular activities has slowly been decreasing over time. We at BRHS are having to cut back on sports and clubs, such as wrestling, nordic skiing (replaced with indoor track), girls soccer, softball, and swimming (done as an independent sport). This hurts our academics, sports, clubs, and enrollment. Our school culture, motivation, and participation in the Boothbay Region High School are lacking. Why is this? Although there are concerns of enrollment, transportation, and eligibility, this should not distract and veer us from capturing a great opportunity, that would better the school culture, attendance, and academics at Boothbay Region High School. I am calling for the requirement of an extracurricular activity each semester, supported by a mandate study hall, for the students at BRHS.
Boothbay Region High School is having to cut back on various sports and extracurricular programs, such as soccer, softball, due to the lack of motivation to participate.. Dean of Students, Allan Crocker says, “extracurriculars in the past are where you hung out with people,” but now kids go home and use social media and technology. Students leave or get dismissed early from the school day, are absent or tardy, and the overall energy to stay in the school has diminished. There are a total of 177 students enrolled at BRHS. A survey was sent out to the student body asking if they participate in an extracurricular activity. Out of the 120 responses that I received (Figure 1 below), 30% of students responded with “no,” meaning 36 students, do not participate in any extracurricular activity at BRHS during the course of the school year (“Student Survey”). By requiring students to participate in a sport, a club, the arts, etc. that can be a co-extracurricular (in school) or extracurricular (after school) commitment, could ameliorate all of these issues.
North Yarmouth Academy requires students to participate in athletics or theater each season/semester. The Head of School at NYA, Ben Jackson, has said that “it [required participation] ensures that all of our students are engaged in the community outside of the classroom. I believe this strengthens the community.” Not only does NYA require the participation of extracurriculars, but Poland High School requires it, as well. Cari Medd, the principal of Poland High School, a public school, says “We believe, and research supports, that the more engaged a student is in school, the more likely they are to do well and graduate.” In Poland High School’s graduation policy it states, “Students will complete two co-and/or extra-curricular experiences.” Mrs. Medd agrees that it has helped her student and teacher relationships at the school.
According to the DOE, over the past 10 years, 63 students have dropped out of BRHS. What I have realized in going to such a small school, is when a couple of your classmates are absent you can notice. If say 5 people drop out in the course of a school year, this seems like a lot in a small school of 177 students. Why are students dropping out? If they were a part of something outside of the classroom could this help to keep them involved and attending school? Lisa Smith, Director of Special Services, has asked these very same questions. She says, “There is no one answer to why. Students come from a variety of backgrounds, experiences, personal trauma, emotional supports and level of resiliency.” By requiring students to participate in an activity students can be themselves, where they feel safe and are most comfortable.
Students’ participation, “reduces the likelihood of dropping out of school, may be related to student learning growth, and even ACT research has found that activities such as community service, instrumental music, and debate are all positively related to academic growth” (“Croft”). Not only could this help, the 16% of students who failed the first quarter (“Welch”), but “research suggests that participation in extracurricular activities may increase students' sense of engagement or attachment to their school, and thereby decrease the likelihood of school failure and dropping out.” (“Extracurricular”) We offer such activities, but we do not require that students participate, which hurts our students. When participating in such activities, you have to be eligible in order to participate. This means students can only fail one class. They have to show up to school in order to attend the activity, furthermore, it might motivate them to want to come. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau, “shows that children tend to have higher levels of school engagement when involved in one or more activities, like sports, lessons or clubs” (“School Engagement”). Participating in extracurricular activities specifically “athletics for high school students does not endanger, and may enhance, academic performance.” Not only does participating help students’ academics, but attendance, as well. In order to uphold these grades you need to attend school, helping the attendance of our school. The head of school at NYA, Ben Jackson says, “it ensures that all of our students are engaged in the community outside of the classroom. I believe this strengthens the community.” Our attendance for the last quarter: on average 16 students were absent a day (Burnham). This means that almost 10% of our students are absent each day. This can be changed.
Some would say this would be hard for students to find transportation and this would put a high demand on buses/drivers. Although this is a realistic argument, students can carpool or have parents pick them up after practice, or if they have their licences drive themselves to and from their activity. If there is no transportation option for the student, they can choose to participate in a co-extracurricular (in school) activity. This also works for students who work a job to provide for their family or are the home sitter for family members.
Another concern: would this hurt students' eligibility even more and increase the number of classes failed? At BRHS 10% of students last quarter were failing two or more classes (“Welch”). This is why I am also suggesting that the school enforce an academic study hall after school or maybe during the school day. If students are ineligible, they have to clock in an hour of study hall, to improve their grades. This way students are still upholding their grades and work in the classroom. At the college level, athletes have to do this. For example, schools such as Delaware State University and other schools mandate a study hall; these “required hours are driven by academic performance or lack thereof. Coaches can mandate a set number of hours a student-athlete must be in the study hall” (“Llarson”). This would prevent students from failing and staying ineligible for long periods of time, not giving them the opportunity to even participate in the activity. This system has worked at the college level, specifically with athletes. According to the NCAA, “student-athletes need to stay on track in order to maintain progress toward a baccalaureate or equivalent degree to stay eligible at the NCAA level” (“New”). This provides students with the opportunity to practice managing their time, multitasking an extracurricular activity and school. Mr. Crocker, in our interview, suggested the idea that students who are eligible and not failing one or more classes, could leave the school day at 1:50pm, after their last class. The students who are failing would have to stay until 2:30pm. This not only gives an incentive to keep grades up, but uses teachers and resources efficiently. High schools want to prepare students for the future, whether that be college, the military, or the workforce, all of which require the ability to time manage and multitask. When students are participating in such activities it contributes to students “well-rounded education” by offering “opportunities for students to learn the values of teamwork, individual and group responsibility, physical strength and endurance, competition, diversity, and a sense of culture and community” (“Extracurricular”). Enrollment is also not the issue. Allan Crocker, says “I don’t think the issue is enrollment, we have enough kids to fill the fields that we have, if it was a requirement.” It is a matter of getting kids to want to be a part of something and want a great school culture for themselves. Mr. L’Heureux, a history teacher at BRHS brings up another concern being, “then you are forcing introverts to be extroverts.” The concern is that we would be pushing kids to do things that may be outside their comfort zone. We offer a variety of different activities, ranging from sports teams, the arts, to student government. Although it may seem this way to some, the goal is to increase a sense of school spirit. When students are more motivated and involved it can create a more positive and fun environment at the school.
My next step in this process would be to present it to Interim Principal, Tricia Campbell and the school committee, to ensure that change is done. The issue of enrollment, transportation, and eligibility concerns should not distract and veer us from capturing a great opportunity, that would better the school culture, attendance, and academics at Boothbay Region High School. This is the requirement of extracurricular activities each semester.
Burnham, Leanne. Personal Interview. December 9, 2019.
Croft, et al. “Rural Students: Technology, Coursework, and Extracurricular Activities. Insights in Education and Work.” ACT, Inc., ACT, Inc. 500 ACT Drive, P.O. Box 168, Iowa City, IA 52243-0168. Tel: 319-337-1270; Web Site: Http://Www.act.org, 31 Jan. 2019, https://eric.ed.gov/?q=requirement+of+extracurricular+activities+in+high+schools&ft=on&id=ED596140.
“Extracurricular Participation and Student Engagement.” Extracurricular Participation And Student Engagement, https://nces.ed.gov/pubs95/web/95741.asp.
“Graduation Rates & Dropout Rates.” Graduation Rates & Dropout Rates
Jackson, Ben. Personal Interview. December 12, 2019.
L’Heureux, Skip. Personal Interview. March 5, 2019.
Llarson. “Study Hall.” Delaware State University, 2 Apr. 2019, https://www.desu.edu/student-life/athletics/academic-services/study-hall.
Medd, Cari. Personal Interview. January 3, 2020.
“New NCAA Student Athlete Eligibility Rules.” New NCAA Student Athlete Eligibility Rules.
Student Survey. February 3, 2020.
US Census Bureau. “School Engagement Higher for Children in Extracurricular Activities.” The United States Census Bureau, 6 Nov. 2018
Welch, Dan. Personal Interview. December 12, 2019.