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Office of News and Information
Johns Hopkins University
3003 N. Charles Street, Suite 100
Baltimore, Maryland 21218-3843
Phone: (410) 516-7160 / Fax (410) 516-5251

August 18, 1999
Leslie Rice, lnr@jhu.edu or
Marc Cutright, (410) 516-8800

When the School Day Ends
How High School Students Spend Their Time After School
Can Affect Their Success In School

High school students who participate in community-based structured activities after school or on weekends tend to have better educational outcomes, including better preparation for class, leadership in school activities, math and science achievement and optimism about the future, a study has found. Researchers at The Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland also found that time spent just "hanging out" with friends is associated with less achievement.

The findings are in a report issued by the Center for Research on the Education of Students Placed at Risk, a joint Johns Hopkins University/Howard University center sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education. The research was conducted by Will J. Jordan (pictured at right) of Johns Hopkins and Saundra Murray Nettles of the University of Maryland, College Park. The findings were based on an analysis of the activities and achievements of more than 10,000 high school students across the country. The students studied represented a variety of economic, social, and racial categories.

Out-of-school structured activities looked at in the study included recreational programs; lessons in sports, music, dance, art, and language; and volunteer service in the community. Prior research has found positive results from similar school-sponsored out-of-class activities.

Jordan and Nettles found that, if by 10th grade students participated in such non- school activities as a rec league, a religious youth group, a volunteer organization or other structured groups, those students went on to become more engaged in high school. They were more likely to become school leaders, to be involved in student groups and to be well-prepared for classes. They tended to earn higher grades than students who did not participate in organized activities in their free time.

The study finds that "conventional wisdom has some merit. Adolescents respond well to structured activities and to positive adult role models." Conversely, the report states, "students who are less involved in meaningful experiences outside of school run the risk of losing valuable opportunities for self-improvement, and worse, they may become wayward adolescents." For their analysis, Jordan and Nettles used the National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988, which tracked eighth graders of that year throughout high school and two years past their graduation. The researchers looked at the out-of-school involvement of the students during their 10th grade year, and their educational outcomes two years later.

"Adolescents who have little adult supervision and guidance for large amounts of time run the risk of involving themselves in activities that negatively affect their commitment to school," Jordan said.

The report finds strong correlation between religious activities and school success, but Jordan expressed caution about tying those factors too directly. "It may be that the presence of religious involvement would indicate family support and values that would also be factors in school achievement," he said. The research was inconclusive about the effect of after-school jobs on educational performance. It appeared that such work had little negative or positive effect on school outcomes, but further analysis of the time teenagers devoted to their jobs might yield a clearer picture of effects, the study's authors say.

To download a copy of the report from the World Wide Web, see http://www.csos.jhu.edu/crespar/CRESPAR%20Reports/report29entire. htm

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