More Kennewick middle and high school students are joining athletic teams and school clubs, which school administrators said could go far in improving attendance and grades.
The increase particularly is high in the Kennewick School District's four middle schools, with hundreds more students getting involved in activities such as yearbook, art club and math Olympiad, according to information presented at the Kennewick School Board meeting Wednesday.
District administrators said the numbers represent some students being counted more than once for being involved in multiple activities. However, more effort has gone into telling students about extra- and co-curricular activities at the schools, which motivates some students to keep coming to school, officials say.
There are about 2,400 middle school students in Kennewick and about 4,500 high school students.
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Middle school sports teams fielded 2,632 participants in the 2012-13 school year, about 100 more than the previous school year. Club participation made an even bigger jump with 2,724 participating, about 700 students more than the previous year.
High school sports team participation increased by about 100 students, with a small decline in club participation.
Assistant Superintendent Ron Williamson said that research shows having activities such as clubs and sports provides more opportunities for students to be engaged. That in turn reduces the number of dropouts. Data also shows that when students are involved in athletics, their grades are higher to meet the 2.0 grade-point average required to be allowed to play.
More work needs to be done to have the student involvement translate into long-term success in school. Williamson said student athletes' grades typically suffer when their sport is out of season, but the district will continue to look for more ways for students to want to stay at school.
w The district will continue to offer expanded opportunities for students to waive a physical education requirement to graduate.
The district offered more testing opportunities and changed the standards to "test out" of the requirement this past school year and saw increased interest from students.
Students are required to take physical education to graduate. State law allows students to waive a portion of the requirement if they can pass a written test and a physical fitness test.
The district now will offer 12 testing opportunities instead of the six that used to be offered. Students also will be able to retake either portion of the test if they pass the other.
Some requirements of the physical tests were changed. Administrators no longer will consider body mass index as a criteria. The state also eliminated proficiency in specific physical skills, such as shooting basketball free throws.