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What do we measure? : understanding how leadership measures the benefits of after-school physical activities in the continuation school setting

  • Author(s): Conklin, Erik Richard
  • et al.

The purpose of this exploratory and descriptive qualitative study was to understand the data used by teachers and administrators to determine the benefits of time spent in after-school athletics and exercise programs on the academic performance of students in three continuation high schools in California. Using student focus group interviews, teacher and staff interviews, and document analysis, this study seeks to understand the nature of after-school athletics and exercise programs in these schools, how they meet the needs of these students, and the role of administrators and teachers in leading these programs and tracking how these programs may benefit students academically as well as physically. Key findings include a relationship between funding and increased teacher investment of providing after-school activities, as well as a positive relationship between adults who are on campus all day and the social-emotional investment and connection of the students to the school and their own learning. Key data sources are generally not systemically used to measure growth in behavior, investment, or academic growth, despite myriad sources of data for analysis. Students report feeling more invested in school when it seems adults through the day are caring about them by checking on their progress, even if useful data is not systematically used. Implications of this study span across leadership, practitioner, and policy considerations; research constructs; and theoretical concepts. Key factors to consider when implementing an effective program include financial support, facility considerations, preexisting physical resources, staff knowledge and interest, and an understanding of the importance of the program. Recommendations include conducting pre- and post- engagement surveys, tracking changes in grades, credit acquisition, and behavior, maintaining funding for after-school physical education programs for typically low-socioeconomic status students, recruiting facilitators who are also teachers on continuation school campuses during the regular school hours, using existing data sources to guide decisions, and reconsidering theoretical frameworks to better understand the student-in-context as an individual with agency to pursue healthy relationships with adults via mentoring frameworks for interactions which will facilitate resiliency and positive health habits

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