Wherever you are, BE there...

04/23/2015  |  With Larry Biddle

As spring comes our way it is imperative that we remind ourselves of the very simple athletic coaches’ axiom above: when on the fields, courts and pools for spring sports, “Wherever you are, be there! Don’t be thinking about homework assignments, quizzes, tests, reports and other school projects while you are playing; you will lose the game, match or meet. Likewise, don’t be thinking about sports when you are in class where teaching & learning is the focus... you may lose your future!” DISENGAGEMENT in our classes every day leads to the challenges we see as we face competition in our global world. 

At JostensRenaissance we continue to maintain that our educational institutions are the most important businesses in town for the future of our nation. Original elements were taken from the results we all saw in athletics. Academic coaches and Co-curricular coaches can learn so much in order to ENGAGE our students in critical skills to become effective citizens and leaders... TALENTS, ATTITUDES, SKILLS, KNOWLEDGE & STYLE: TASKS matter! These TASKS must be taught daily....

In addition to these vital TASKS, zero in on the recognition that goes on every day in athletics! We all know the powerful impact of a simple sticker on a helmet in the world of American football. Moreover, consider the rituals, ceremonies and celebrations that highlight athletic achievement. When we incorporate the same excitement and promotion for academic as well as co-curricular achievement, broader & deeper engagement flourishes for all stakeholders, not athletes only. The ongoing challenge for our schools has been how to keep up with the many activities of our many students. Ponder for a moment the amount of data produced for our athletes... the enormous amount of information is frankly stunning! All of the data inspires and motivates players as well as coaches to spotlight improvement, achievement and success.

At the two California Association of Renaissance Educators (CARE) conferences attended by 2,400 in SoCal and NorCal locations, a couple of creative tech-savvy school activities directors introduced a method for tracking students in academic and co-curricular pursuits. Their research-based strategy delineates the process.

What problem are they addressing?

Research and personal experience has shown that students not involved in school activities are more likely to have lower grades and/or discipline problems. They are also less likely to attend school regularly and reach graduation.

If a student is involved in at least one activity, their chances for success grow exponentially. If a school can identify students that are not involved early, they can provide opportunities and incentives for becoming involved. In the past the difficulty was the lack of accurate data about student involvement to identify these at-risk students.

How does the system work?

Their system keeps track of student involvement in school activities and events. Schools can assign point values and incentives to drive more engagement and recognize those individuals that participate. In addition to the involvement features, survey and voting capabilities for schools are offered, which allows them to collect interests from students and assess the results by popularity, specific interest, or individual results.

What about the data?

The school assesses its results and relates them to their individual goals and measures of success. Collected data included:

  • % of students involved/not involved
  • % of students participating in at least 1 activity/2 or more activities
  • % of students that attended at least 1 event/2 or more events
  • Student involvement by grade, gender or time period
  • Individual student involvement across school years
  • Most popular student activities
  • Attendance at events
  • Events with the most student involvement
  • Uninvolved students

How do these tracking strategies improve school success and/or career readiness?

The current nationwide graduation rate is 80%. According to the Alliance for Student Activities (http://alliance4studentactivities.org/letxequalsa/), this percentage improves to 93% if a student is involved in at least one co-curricular activity. Students that participate in 2 or more activities have an even greater 99% rate of graduation.

For a school to provide assistance and incentives for student participation, it first must be able to identify those uninvolved students. A system such as the one created by our school activities directors offers a variety of features to more clearly indicate which students participate and those that do not and to incentivize involvement in activities and events. This data also serves as a quantitative measure of active student involvement for the purpose of college and career application processes. Listing clubs and organizations on a student resume seldom indicates the level of involvement.

According to the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, a major breakthrough has occurred between education and business that is driving consumers’ higher needs. In 1943, Abraham Maslow developed his formative work on the hierarchy and progression of human needs. Maslow insightfully noted that the human hierarchy of needs spans from the tangible, such as food and water, to the intangible, such as self-esteem and creativity. Today a similar progression can also be observed in the business world. Many firms, enabled by new, digital technologies, are shifting from providing goods and services —the tangible — to providing information and connectivity —the intangible, a shift which is creating ripples of change in finance and financial markets. Companies serving these higher, more intangible needs of customers are reaping rewards with higher valuations than those that serve the more tangible needs of customers that include structure and sustenance. For decades, those of us in education have recognized the extrinsic and intrinsic needs of our students and staffulty, resulting in the development of the whole person. The aforementioned system is one more innovation to bridge that divide.

Be an Agent of Change

Larry Biddle is considered the founder of Jostens Renaissance. He has been a student of the impact of recognition on individual achievement for two decades. He served as vice-chairman of the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, as well as a member of the Coastal Education Foundation at CCU.Reach him at [email protected]
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