Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

At-Risk High School Students and High Prestige Extracurricular Activities: A Phenomenographical Inquiry into the Experience
by Redalen, Todd, Ed.D., Saint Mary's University of Minnesota, 2017, 194; 10284535
Abstract (Summary)

American politicians, policy makers, and educators continue to grapple with ways to improve the academic achievement for all student groups. In spite of recent reform efforts such as the No Child Left Behind Act, evidence suggests that America has yet to adopt changes that not only improve achievement for all student groups but also reduce the high school dropout rate for its highest-risk students. Empirical research suggests that when students participate in the particular extra-curricular offerings of athletics and (on a more individual basis) fine arts, they have greater chances of staying in school and not dropping out. Yet this area of the school curriculum is often elusive for students who have background characteristics that put them at greater risk for school failure. The phenomenon under study is the experience of at-risk student participants in athletics and fine arts, and this inquiry sought to discover what it is about these offerings that may contribute to decreases in school failure. Data collection took place through one-on-one interviews and focus groups with 12 high-risk students who met predetermined selection criteria of being at-risk, participating in athletics and/or fine arts, being on a trajectory toward success in conventional terms, and being willing to talk about these experiences in an interview and focus group. Participants indicated that supportive social connections played a critical role in their initial and/or their ongoing participation. Findings revealed that students’ participation in both athletics and fine arts cultivated and nourished the affective domain of learning by appealing to their interests, passions, and hopes. For participants, both athletics and fine arts appeared to play a significant role in their lives, to the point of being life changing. There were many attributions associated with participation, and included such things as improvement in academic achievement, staying in school and not dropping out, as a result of their participation in both athletics and fine arts. These and other findings identified in this study should provide guidance to politicians, policy makers, educational reformers, educators, communities, families, and students themselves about the value of participation in these specific school offerings. Thus, findings implied that schools should encourage greater pupil participation in the full curriculum and not decrease support to these specific offerings, which could be increasingly vulnerable to cuts during fiscal challenges because athletics and fine arts may often be thought of as a privilege for a select few or an unnecessary part of the school curriculum.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McClure, John
Commitee: Cisewski, Shannon, Eubank, Roxanne, McClure, John, Wolfe, Rustin
School: Saint Mary's University of Minnesota
Department: Leadership
School Location: United States -- Minnesota
Source: DAI-A 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Educational leadership, School administration, Education
Keywords: At-risk students, Athletics, Dropping out, Education reform, Fine arts, Resilence
Publication Number: 10284535
ISBN: 978-1-369-79103-7
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