The impact of extracurricular activity involvement on dropout rates for students with emotional and behavioral disorders
Gilliam, Jamil Monique
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In the current educational climate that is fueled by high stakes testing, evidence-based practices, and teacher/administrator accountability students’ academic achievement and post-secondary pursuits are of high importance. However, students with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) remain at the adverse end of nearly all outcomes, including punitive disciplinary measures and school completion. In focusing on the latter, that is school completion, increasing student engagement has been the target of many of the initiatives employed to decrease dropout rates. Student engagement is a multidimensional construct comprised of a behavior, emotion, and cognition (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004). Behavioral engagement which includes behavioral problems as well as students’ attendance and participation in extracurricular activities (ECA) is strongly associated with student outcomes (Juvonen, Espinoza, & Knifsend, 2012; Reschly & Christenson, 2012). Students with EBD have difficulty with engagement (Reddy & Richardson, 2006), particularly engagement in ECA (Reeves, 2008; Reschly & Christenson, 2006b). The benefits of ECA for youth are well-described in the literature. Furthermore, ECA participation is considered to be the key indicator of a students’ engagement with school. What is less known, however, is the impact of ECA participation for students with EBD, a group clearly at high-risk for poor education and poor life outcomes. This dissertation sought to examine the impact of ECA involvement for students with EBD using the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS: 2002), a report produced by the National Center for Educational Statistics. A close analysis of this database, primarily using logistic regression, helped answer the following questions (a) does involvement in extracurricular activities affect dropout rates for students with EBD; (b) are certain types of ECA strong predictors of student dropout, and (c) does ECA participation predict dropout above all other factors that affect graduation rates? The results indicated that among the categories of ECA examined, sports emerged as the most predictive of dropout rates. Specifically, participation in basketball was found to have the most positive impact of all ECA analyzed. This study will help teachers, program designers, and policy makers to better understand the needs and interests of students with EBD.