The Alliance for Student Activities is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the value of student activities. Through printed materials, videos, and live presentations, the Alliance provides compelling information about the importance of student activities in increasing standardized test scores, lowering the dropout rate, and improving social and emotional outcomes.
THE SECRET TO STUDENT SUCCESS doesn’t have to be a mystery. Most youth advocates understand that students thrive when given opportunities to practice their “spark”—an activity that captures interest, allows for creative expression, and motivates each unique student to be his or her best. Unfortunately, too many of today’s students are in danger of losing their spark. Budget cuts, scheduling constraints, and renewed directives to teach to the test have reduced creative opportunities for young people to shine. An alarming 75 percent of today’s kids feel disconnected from their schools and communities.
A WEALTH OF CREDIBLE RESEARCH demonstrates that student participation in civic-related activities leads to improved outcomes for individual students and the collective community.1 But as academic pressure to perform continues to mount in our schools, today’s civics courses are often scratch-the-surface summaries about the basics of government. Although this approach might fulfill the citizenship criterion on a list of required credits, these crash courses fail to empower students to become active participants in their own civic learning. In order to develop the skills and dispositions that lead to a lifetime of meaningful civic engagement, young people need regular opportunities to serve as active, impactful citizens in their schools and communities.
WHILE MANY EDUCATORS ACKNOWLEDGE THE VALUE of extracurricular, cocurricular, and after-school activities in helping students thrive, securing sustainable funding for these programs can be a daunting task. Although the cost for a viable activities program in most districts is less than three percent of the overall budget, it can be difficult to claim these dollars when finances are already stretched to the limit. But for stakeholders who believe in their programs and are willing to invest elbow grease and advocacy, funding is available, obtainable, and worth the effort.
THE EVIDENCE IS TOO IMPORTANT TO IGNORE. Student activities offer an affordable, common-sense strategy for keeping kids in school and helping them to thrive. So how can educators ensure that all students are engaged, especially those who are at risk of slipping through the cracks? An easy-to-use web-based application from the Alliance for Student Activities and Software 4 Schools is providing the answers. With ENGAGE, educators can efficiently map activity participation, measure performance, and build a community that offers nurturing connections for all students.
By Kathleen Wilson Shryock
FOR EDUCATORS AND STUDENTS ACROSS THE COUNTRY, Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are quickly becoming a fact of life. Currently, forty-four states have voluntarily adopted the standards. Unfortunately, previous mandates that required educators to teach to the test at the expense of holistic student development have caused some stakeholders to view the new standards with suspicion. But for many teachers who are currently incorporating CCSS, the Common Core provides a refreshing, realistic framework for preparing students for success after high school. And because these standards focus on critical-thinking skills in addition to academics, the student activities arena offers valuable opportunities for students to practice CCSS-related applications.
by Kathleen Wilson Shryock
OUR SOCIETY IS ON THE MOVE. Blink-of-an-eye advances in technology, changes in skill requirements, and evolving expectations from recruiters can make it difficult for today’s high school students to transition into college or career. With these advancements giving rise to new challenges and opportunities, many agree that an education based solely on academics is not enough. Instead, students need to develop the skills that will help them connect classroom learning with real-world applications.
TERRI WOOD IS PASSIONATE about student activities. As the activities adviser at Canyon Hills Junior High School in Chino Hills, CA, she has witnessed the benefits of activities in keeping kids connected to their school and in creating a positive climate. So when the stipends for all junior high activities directors were eliminated from her district’s budget in 2010, Wood remained committed to providing her students with valuable programs.