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Article Makes Case for the Academic Value of Extracurriculars

Activities at school beyond the classroom like sports, drama club, yearbook, and jazz band are worth protecting in tight fiscal times, contends a new article published in Education Next online today.

"There's not a straight line between the crochet club and the Ivy League," writes former Wall Street Journal education reporter June Kronholz, a contributing editor to the education journal. "But a growing body of research says there is a link between after-school activities and graduating from high school, going to college, and becoming a responsible citizen."

The article, "Academic Value of Non-Academics: The Case for Keeping Extracurriculars," points to a number of studies suggesting the power of after-school activities, even as Kronholz cautions that "the findings about extracurriculars aren't always consistent or conclusive: You can't randomly assign kids to soccer, after."

She also raises concerns about the practice of charging for certain extracurricular activities, pointing to examples of districts that have started to do so.

Near the end of her article, Kronholz describes how she recently turned to a decidedly unscientific method to examine the value of extracurriculars, reporting on the results of a question she posted on the Facebook pages of her college-going sons. She asked what they learned in high school that best prepared them for college.

"No one dumped on high school—'It's not that I didn't have fine teachers,' Andrew Snowe e-mailed me—but no one credited AP chemistry with preparing them for college, either," Kronholz writes. "In fact, no one mentioned classes at all. Instead, they wrote that extracurriculars introduced them to new ideas and interests, taught them to study more efficiently, developed their social skills, and exposed them to caring adults."

Ultimately, she concludes: "I'd rise to the defense of Algebra I any day, and I assume any social scientist would, too. But, leadership, adaptability, social skills? Try a couple of years on the school newspaper to learn that."

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