Date of Award

2009

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Program

Educational Leadership PhD

First Advisor

James A. Tucker

Second Advisor

Kristin Stehouwer

Third Advisor

Erich Baumgartner

Abstract

Purpose: For more than 100 years, participation in interscholastic athletics has been a major part of American high schools’ extracurricular offerings. As public-school districts struggle to meet the needs of the No Child Left Behind legislation, many changes require additional expenditures. Funding presents a constant challenge. Extracurricular activities, including interscholastic sports, are often sacrificed in funding decisions. This single-case-study design was crafted to examine perceptions of the professional staff, the non-professional staff, the graduates, and the community members in one north-central Pennsylvania community with regard to the perceptions of interscholastic sports on selected elements of a public-school experience. Using social capital theory as a theoretical framework, the selected elements studied were student achievement, student behavior, school climate, student leadership, and overall student experience.

Method: The subjects surveyed were 39 professional staff, 23 non-professional staff, 35 graduates, and 292 community members of the targeted high school in rural north-central Pennsylvania. The community’s participants were obtained as a random sample, while the professional staff and the non-professional staff were convenience populations. The graduate participants were a convenience sample. The survey responses of the professional staff, the non-professional staff, and the community members represent the perceptions of observers of students who played interscholastic sports. The survey responses of the graduates represent the perceptions of those who have attended the high school who either participated in interscholastic sports or were observers of classmates who participated. Responses to each of the four sets of surveys were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics to address the primary research question: Do interscholastic sports have an effect on the perceptions of overall student experience of the targeted high school? Eleven supporting questions were explored. Frequencies, Mann-Whitney U tests, and Kruskal-Wallis tests were done.

Results: The findings were divided into five components: student achievement, student behavior, school climate, student experience, and student leadership. Conclusions from this study are as follows: 1. On the element of student achievement, the professional staff, the non-professional staff, the community members, and the graduates perceived that students involved in interscholastic sports were less likely to drop out of high school. The professional staff, the non-professional staff, and the community members perceived that academic classes were more important than interscholastic sports. The athletes perceived that when they were involved in interscholastic sports they attained higher grades. 2. The professional staff, the non-professional staff, and the community members perceived that interscholastic sports had a positive impact on student behavior. Also, the student-athletes agreed that interscholastic sports had a positive impact on student behavior. 3. The professional staff, the non-professional staff, the community members, and the graduates perceived that interscholastic sports had a positive impact on school climate. 4. The professional staff, the non-professional staff, the community members, and the student-athletes perceived that interscholastic sports provided leadership training. The professional staff, the non-professional staff, and the community members perceived that interscholastic sports provided training in time management. The student-athletes perceived that interscholastic sports helped them gain confidence and taught them to be responsible. 5. The professional staff, the non-professional staff, and the community members perceived that interscholastic sports provided the student-athletes with learning experiences that were not available in the classrooms. Also, the student-athletes perceived that interscholastic sports gave them experiences that would help them later in life. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to determine if there was a significant difference between the populations—professional staff, non-professional staff, and community members—regarding their perceptions of the importance of academics over athletics; no significant difference was found. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to ascertain whether there was a significant difference between the populations—professional staff, non-professional staff, and the community members—regarding their perceptions of whether interscholastic sports have a longer-lasting effect on students’ development than many academic classes; no significant difference was found. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to determine whether there was a significant difference between student-athletes’ and non-participants’ perceptions relative to the importance of athletics on school climate; there was no significant difference between the mean rank values of the student-athletes and the non-participants. The Mann-Whitney U test was used to determine whether there was a significant difference between student-athletes’ and non-participants’ perceptions relative to the importance of athletics on student leadership; there was no significant difference between the mean rank values of the student-athletes and the non-participants.

Conclusion: The perceptions of the impact of interscholastic sports on selected elements of student achievement, student behavior, school climate, student experiences, and student leadership of a public-school experience were studied in this dissertation. The data support that there is a perception that interscholastic sports impact these elements in a positive manner. The impact reaches individuals, the school, and the community. This study provides research-based data to support the continued funding of interscholastic sports in rural north-central Pennsylvania, realizing that interscholastic sports may become a debatable issue due to the constraints of No Child Left Behind legislation.

Subject Area

Intramural sports, School sports, Academic achievement

Share

COinS