Athletics and Student Outcomes: The Madison School District

The Effect of Interscholastic High School Athletics Participation on Student Outcomes for the Classes of 2012-2014 (PDF):

Key Findings

Across MMSD, approximately 50% of all students in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 graduating cohorts participated in interscholastic athletics at some point during their high school careers. Of those participants, 11% participated for one year and 38% participated for 2+ years.

Overall, students who participated in interscholastic athletics at any point in their high school careers demonstrate better academic, behavior, and graduation/postsecondary outcomes than those who did not, with differences particularly pronounced for students who participated in 2+ years of athletics.

MMSD interscholastic athletes outperformed similar non-athletes on all academic and behavioral outcomes.

During 2015, athletics has been a topic of interest for MMSD’s Board of Education. Athletics participation ties directly into MMSD’s Strategic Framework Goal #2: Every student has access to a challenging and well-rounded education, which is measured in part by access and participation data for extra-curricular and co-curricular activities like athletics. In particular, the Board has asked questions regarding whether high school students who compete in school-sponsored athletics show different outcomes than non-participants, in an effort to understand how to prioritize athletic program funding. In this report, we investigate the following questions of interest:

1. For the 2012-2014 graduating cohorts, who participated in interscholastic high school athletics?

2. What are the academic and behavioral outcomes for interscholastic high school athletics participants?

3. How do academic and behavioral outcomes for interscholastic high school athletics participants compare to similar non-participants?

Nationwide, approximately 7.8 million high school students participated in school athletics during 2014-15. Of these participants, about 42% are female, a share that continues to increase over time. The most popular sports for boys are football, track, and basketball, while the most popular for girls are track, volleyball, and basketball. Wisconsin ranks 14th in the nation in athletics participation, with more than 185,000 student athletes (National Federation of State High School Associations, 2015). The four conventional MMSD high schools participate in the Big 8 Conference, which includes 10 local high schools, and are members of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA).

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