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Hawaii to Launch After-School Sports Program for At-Risk Students

Beginning next school year, Hawaiian middle schoolers in low-performing schools will have the opportunity to extend their school day by participating in an after-school sports program sponsored by the state education department.

The three-year Intermediate Athletics pilot program, announced Wednesday by the department, will be available to students in the "Zones of School Innovation," which represent the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools in the state. Five schools in total will be eligible for the pilot program; 13 schools in total are included in the ZSIs.

Any 6th, 7th, or 8th grade student attending one of those five schools can participate in the Intermediate Athletics program, provided that he or she has a minimum GPA of 2.0 and that he or she enrolls in the After-School All-Stars program.

Boys in the program will be able to choose among basketball, volleyball, soccer, and football, depending on location; girls in all locations will have basketball, volleyball, and soccer available to them.

"We want to provide students the opportunity to engage in activities to extend their learning hours, and learn about self-confidence, self-discipline, and self-esteem at the same time," said Keith Amemiya, the Hawaii state board of education member who spearheaded the program, in a statement.

Deputy Superintendent Ronn Nozoe added, "Research shows these types of extracurricular activities can make a positive impact with academic, social, and emotional development."

For proof of Nozoe's point, look no further than the public schools in Lincoln, Neb., where students who passed the district's fitness test were significantly more likely to pass state math and reading tests.

Linked to Race to the Top

Now, if you've been to our home page today, you'd know that the U.S. Dept. of Ed. contacted Hawaii yesterday about a lack of "adequate progress" that the state has made on its Race to the Top promises. In fact, the state's $75 million Race to the Top grant could be in jeopardy, the ED warned.

I only bring that up here because in the Hawaii education department's news release about this athletics program, the headline suggests that the program will "advance Hawaii's Race to the Top initiatives."

I consulted our in-house Race to the Top expert, Michele McNeil (of Politics K-12 fame), to see if she could provide some insight into how exactly this program fits into Hawaii's overall RTT plan. And, well, ... she couldn't.

In Hawaii's plan, the word "athletics" never appears, according to a CTRL + F search. The word "sports" only appears once (in a section about teacher and principal evaluations).

That said, ZSI schools do play a large role in the state's RTT application. And, specifically, the state pledges to provide ZSI schools "resources to extend the school day and year" through grant funding and strategic use of state and federal funding.

The Hawaii ed. dept. said that more details about the Intermediate Athletics program will be released in April. Perhaps we'll learn more details then about how this sports program ties into the state's larger Race to the Top goals.

Want all the latest K-12 sports news? Follow @SchooledinSport on Twitter.

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