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Chapter 3: Student Behaviors and Afterschool Activities

Researchers have long studied the links between educational outcomes and students' behaviors and activities outside of school. Some of these behaviors and activities may support high student achievement and persistence, while other behaviors and activities have been associated with negative outcomes. Chapter 3 explores the prevalence of specific behaviors and activities among males and females of various racial/ethnic groups.

Some student activities, such as completing homework and participating in school-sponsored activities, have been linked to higher student achievement, graduation rates, and postsecondary outcomes. Research has generally indicated a positive relationship between educational outcomes and homework completion, although the strength of the relationship varies by grade level and the frequency of and amount of time allocated to homework (Cooper, Robinson, and Patall 2006). Many educators and policymakers see benefits of homework beyond improved test scores and advocate its assignment to students in all grades. For example, homework may be used to reinforce learning by giving students the opportunity to practice material presented in class or to prepare for new material. It can also be used for noninstructional purposes to promote parent-child interaction or facilitate parent-teacher communication (Epstein and Van Voorhis 2001).

Research has also indicated positive relationships between academic indicators and student participation in school- sponsored extracurricular activities. Almost every high school in the United States offers some type of extracurricular activity, such as music, academic clubs, and sports. Some extracurricular activities reinforce lessons learned in the classroom, offering students the opportunity to apply academic skills in a real-world context. Other activities offer opportunities for students to learn the values of teamwork, individual and group responsibility, perseverance, competition, and diversity and to gain a sense of culture and community. Research suggests that participation in extracurricular activities may also increase students' sense of engagement or attachment to their school, decreasing the likelihood of school failure and dropping out (Broh 2002; Finn 1993; Jordan 1999; Jordan and Nettles 1999; Lamborn et al. 1992). Other studies have shown that high school students engaged in extracurricular activities are more likely to experience higher literacy and other test scores, grade point averages, and postsecondary aspirations (Broh 2002; Feldman and Matjasko 2007; Lipscomb 2007; Shulruf, Tumen, and Tolley 2008).

Among the events and behaviors generally associated with poor educational outcomes for students are grade retention and school suspension or expulsion. Children are retained in a grade if they do not exhibit the academic or social skills necessary to advance (e.g., getting along with others, following directions, regulating emotions). These children may experience low academic achievement and motivation, and many may behave in ways that undermine their efforts in school and their community ( Jimerson 2001). Other research has confirmed that students suspended from school are at higher risk for other poor school outcomes, including dropping out of school (Ensminger and Slusarick 1992; Grissom and Shepard 1989; Jimerson 1999; Jimerson, Anderson, and Whipple 2002; Jimerson, Ferguson, Whipple, Anderson, and Dalton 2002; Rumberger 1987; Rumberger 1995; Sandoval and Fitzgerald 1985).

Negative behaviors also include crime, victimization, and substance abuse. Victimization at school can have lasting effects: in addition to loneliness, depression, and adjustment difficulties (Crick and Bigbee 1998; Crick and Grotpeter 1996; Nansel et al. 2001; Prinstein, Boergers, and Vernberg 2001; Storch et al. 2003), victimized children are more prone to truancy (Ringwalt, Ennett, and Johnson 2003), poor academic performance (MacMillan and Hagan 2004; Wei and Williams 2004), dropping out of school (Beauvais et al. 1996; MacMillan and Hagan 2004), and violent behaviors (Nansel et al. 2003). Students who use alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs such as marijuana are more likely than their peers to experience low academic achievement, truancy, and other discipline-related issues (Bryant et al. 2003; Bryant and Zimmerman 2002).

Students often seek part-time employment once they reach high school. While summer employment may not affect student achievement, some studies have shown negative effects (e.g., in terms of grades, standardized test scores, and course selections) for students who work during the school year (Singh 1998; Singh and Ozturk 2000). Higher grade point averages in elementary and middle school were correlated with fewer hours worked when students reached 10th grade (Singh 1998). Further, working part time was associated with students taking fewer mathematics and science courses and demonstrating lower mathematics achievement overall (Singh and Ozturk 2000).