Extracurricular Activities and Achievement Growth in Kindergarten Through First Grade: The Mediating Role of Non-cognitive Skills

Brian V. Carolan, Sacred Heart University

At the time this article was written and accepted for publication Brian Carolan was affiliated with Montclair State University.


Extracurricular activities (EAs) are thought to foster the development of a host of non-cognitive skills—persistence, communication, and collaboration, among others—that are presumed to facilitate children’s school success. While this logic is intuitively appealing, there have been few formal tests of this idea. This study tests this logic using panel data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Class of 2010–11 (N = 10,422) to assess the extent to which children’s involvement in EAs influences the development of their non-cognitive skills and ultimately their achievement growth from the beginning of kindergarten to the end of first grade. Results from structural equation models indicate that increased EA participation is associated with gains in reading and math achievement, but the evidence provides little support for the claim that these associations are mediated by children’s non-cognitive skills. Implications for policy makers and school and community-based practitioners are discussed.