In this article, Herbert W. Marsh and Sabina Kleitman examine the effects of participation in extracurricular school activities (ESAs) on grade-twelve and postsecondary outcomes (e.g., school grades, coursework selection, homework, educational and occupational aspirations, self-esteem, freedom from substance abuse, number of university applications, subsequent college enrollment, and highest educational level). Their analyses are grounded in three theoretical models: the threshold model, the identification/commitment model, and the social inequality gap reduction model. They find that, consistent with the threshold model predictions, there were some small nonlinear ESA effects - monotonic increases over most of the ESA range, but diminishing returns for extremely high levels of ESA. Consistent with identification/commitment model predictions, school-based ESAs were more beneficial than out-of-school activities, and the most beneficial ESAs included both nonacademic (sports, student government, school publications, and performing arts) and academic activities. Finally, consistent with the social inequality gap reduction model predictions (as well as the identification/commitment model), ESAs benefited socioeconomically disadvantaged students as much or more than advantaged students. In summary, the authors' findings support the conclusion that ESAs foster school identification/commitment that benefits diverse academic outcomes, particularly for socioeconomically disadvantaged students who are least well served by the traditional educational curriculum. (pp. 464-514)
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