It’s Not Either/Or: Success on Field and in Classroom Are Related, Arkansas Research Shows
High school athletic achievement coexists with academic prowessTuesday, February 05, 2013
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Research at the University of Arkansas has shown that athletic success doesn’t necessarily come at the expense of academic success for high school students. In fact, high schools with broader-based, winning sports programs tend to also have higher achievement scores on standardized tests, along with higher graduation rates.
Daniel Bowen, a doctoral fellow in the College of Education and Health Professions, and Jay P. Greene, endowed chair and head of the department of education reform, published their findings in the fall 2012 issue of the Journal of Research in Education. Bowen and Greene examined data from 657 Ohio public high schools, all of which offered at least one sport. They found that the widespread concerns about tradeoffs between sports and academic success did not prove to be true. According to the researchers, “The more that a high school produces winning teams, offers more sports, and expands the number of students who can participate in athletics; the better a school does academically.”
Athletic programs were described as “successful” based on winning percentages of teams and number of students directly involved in sports teams. For academic success, measures of achievement and attainment were used, such as scores on state standardized tests and graduation rates. The researchers considered additional factors and found that, “even for schools that spend the same amount of money per pupil, have similar student demographics, and are of the same size, having a larger and more successful sports program is associated with higher academic achievement.”
Sports programs have a positive relationship to the higher achievement of students overall, and Bowen and Greene believe this might occur because of an enhanced sense of community and tighter social network among parents and students who attend athletic events.
“High school sporting events create an opportunity for parents to gather and share information about their school. As the community comes together for events, it increases involvement and support for the school. This creates social capital and a stronger network of people who can work together to improve academic quality of their institutions overall,” Greene said.
Bowen, the lead researcher on the paper, said that “education researchers often overlook the importance of sports and other extra-curricular activities in schools.”
Additionally, Bowen hopes that this, as well as future projects, will help shed light on the contribution that these aspects of schools can have on student success.
Greene and Bowen are conducting additional research on this topic. Currently they are studying whether coaches are as effective teachers as non-coaches, with hopes that further research will help mold a better understanding of how high school sports affect student achievement.
“Does Athletic Success Come at the Expense of Academic Success” can be reviewed online.
Greene holds the Twenty-First Century Chair in Education Reform in the College of Education and Health Professions.
Jay P. Greene, chair
Department of Education Reform
Barbara Jaquish, science and research communications officer
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