Measuring Extracurricular Programs

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Jamie September 6, 2022 Uncategorized

Not all learning and development happen in the classroom — cue after school activities and measuring extracurricular programs.

High School students are trying to achieve more in less time. The pressure to accomplish more extraordinary things before moving on to college adds to already-complex student expectations. As responsibilities increase, it’s essential to make time for extracurricular activities. Striking a healthy balance between activities in and out of the classroom will make you a more well-rounded individual, help you succeed in school, and give you a competitive edge when applying to college and throughout your career. Measuring extracurricular programs and providing measured and reported feedback becomes a critical part of living up to student needs and expectations. 

The value of extracurriculars

Some of the top reasons for extracurricular programs include higher grades and increased chances for college enrollment. Participating in activities you are passionate about can improve your brain function and help you concentrate and manage your time better, all of which contribute to higher grades (Crimson education US, 2022). This all makes sense when you consider that children consistently involved in extracurriculars are 400 percent more likely to go to college than kids who do not participate in after school programs (, 2019).

Colleges know the importance of extracurricular activities. They want to know an applicant as a person, not just a GPA or test score. Extracurricular activities show a personal side—what you’re interested in or passionate about. Joining clubs, volunteering, or holding a job shows your attachment to your community and desire to help others, as well as your sense of responsibility and time management.

Some of the most significant advantages extracurricular activities provide are “real world” skills. These essential life skills include (but are not limited to):

  • Goal setting
  • Teamwork
  • Time management
  • Prioritization
  • Problem-solving
  • Analytical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Public speaking

Lastly, social involvement is a high-level outcome when evaluating the benefits of after school programs. Let’s be honest. Making friends can be challenging, but one of the easiest ways is through extracurricular activities! Each extracurricular a student engages in provides another opportunity to expand their social network, which will also come in handy when looking for a job.

Three reasons an extracurricular program fails

1. Acquiring and maintaining funding

More than ever, schools are facing many financial challenges. Every year, schools seem to have a harder time making ends meet. Schools are overwhelmed with having to make budget cuts and deciding where they can minimize expenses while making sure they are providing the students with the best possible education. Administrators and school boards have the tough job of deciding what will stay and what will go. Many times, the extracurricular activities are on the chopping blocks that impact not only the student participant but the teacher as a sponsor or a coach.

2. Demonstrating the value

I experienced the funding challenges firsthand. As part of a team of local volunteers and teachers, I helped organize an after-school code club. Our focus was to introduce students to computer science early in their educational development and provide an opportunity to work as a team competing with other  local teams. Volunteers set up after school technology classes in three elementary schools, one intermediate school, one middle school, and one high school. Enrollment included students from second through twelfth grade and effectively established a pipeline for advancement. Funding was received through a three-year grant from our state STEM Action Center to set up and operate our program. 

We did not receive additional funding at the end of our three-year grant. The requirements for funding allocation through the STEM Action Center changed, and they had to evaluate which after school programs to continue funding. Though growing and progressing, our program did not receive additional funding and was forced to stop. The primary reason was a lack of data to illustrate our progress. Enrollment numbers were expanding and we had a high level of participation, but we failed to measure the overall value the students gained from our program. We did not measure our extracurricular program.

3. Justifying the expense and effort

There is one challenging question that we all need to be able to answer. Does our program have value?




  1. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something.
  2. consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of.

Justifying a program means providing the stakeholders with a cost-benefit analysis to help them understand what life would be like without the program. The cost-benefit analysis requires we identify all significant and relevant impacts (positive, negative, neutral) and measure them in concrete, operational terms.

When a school board or administrator establishes next year’s budget, it is most often the programs that measure and report on value that will continue to receive funding or achieve an increase. It is too easy to skip over programs that make little effort to illustrate their value.

Why is it important to measure performance?

What is behind all of this measuring of performance? How do people expect to do with the measures? Are administrators actually using the metrics? Is there a rationale that connects the measurement of performance to some higher purpose? The act of measuring performance and the resulting data only accomplishes something when someone uses the measures to achieve a goal.

Why measure performance? Because measuring performance is good. Measuring helps us achieve success. The link between individual effort and our original goals and objectives is often obscure. Measuring helps us focus on what we are trying to achieve and connects action with achievement. It is easier to achieve our goals when writing them down and measuring them. 

In the best performance-management systems, athletes and students operate with easily defined and transparently illustrated goals and metrics, and everyone understands how individual performance contributes to progress.

Why do we measure performance?

  • Measuring reinforces goals and encourages achievement
  • Measuring helps us illustrate a progression
  • Measuring helps identify ways we can improve
  • Measuring helps explain the investment in the program

How to measure?

Measuring your extracurricular activity performance doesn’t need to be difficult. Overarching goal alignment plays a pivotal role in successful measurement. When managing and launching projects, choose metrics that interested parties will easily relate to and understand. Identify your audience and how you will report on the metrics. This will guide how you collect and share the data. 

There are three steps to choosing metrics:

  1. Understand the purpose or goal of the project
  2. Determine what critical success factors need to be fulfilled in order for you to succeed
  3. Take each critical success factor and identify how you will measure its fulfillment

Here are six factors coaches and instructors can measure to create metrics that determine project success:

  1. Benefits resulting from the capability delivered by a project (goals and objectives)
  2. Time/Schedule to deliver output (season or annual review | data collection period)
  3. Cost to deliver project output (time and financial resources)
  4. Scope of work to deliver project output (project outline and calendar – practice plans)
  5. Satisfaction or the quality of the process or activity (surveyed customer satisfaction)
  6. Risks including uncertainty or threats to project success (review and analysis)

When a measurable goal is not met, you need to make changes. When a goal is exceeded, you can repeat successful processes. So, step on the scale and take an inventory of your current status. Determine which metrics will best guide your extracurricular goals and then get to work.

Three keys to a successful extracurricular program

1. Plan for the future

Every extracurricular program has a different set of needs, and your program should focus on your specific objectives. List your goals for the program and include a strategy for measuring. How will you use the information you collect? Keep these objectives in mind while planning, implementing, and improving your program. Setting goals and objectives is only the first step. Additionally, understanding how you will use the goals over the long haul will increase your chances of success. 

Sharing the team or organizational goals helps build interest from students and parents, so be sure to communicate the program’s goals, development, progress, and successes. Even more important than generating interest, sharing your goals will improve the chances of achieving the long-term objectives of your after school programs. 

2. Set goals for the program and individuals

While organizational goals are part of the equation, allowing instructors, coaches, students, and athletes to work out their own goals makes an after school program much more likely to succeed. Specifically, setting clear individual development goals keeps activities on track and produces measurable results. 

An assessment at the start of a season or when a new student joins a program is an excellent tool to align goals and prepare to measure progress and success. Markedly, the early assessment identifies strengths and weaknesses and sets both instructors and students on the path to success.

3. Measure 

Throughout the classes, practices, and competitions, take quantitative measurements such as surveys and interviews, as well as qualitative measures such as attendance and performance. Remember that the successes and shortcomings of the program provide valuable information for parents and administrators when evaluating and justifying a program.

Providing visibility and oversight into the connection between students and teachers is becoming increasingly essential. Measuring extracurricular programs offers a transparent record of historical activity and performance. The historical data minimizes objections, negative criticisms, and legal liabilities. 

With the proper planning and structuring, your extracurricular program can do everything from attracting better talent to improving performance and outcomes. Use the simple steps outlined above as your outline for setting up and measuring extracurricular programs, enhancing and fueling better results with each new class of students.


Crimson education US. (2022). Top 8 benefits of extracurricular activities in high school [web log]. Retrieved 2022, from (2019). Extracurriculars Are More Than Nice-to-Have: They’re Essential [web log]. Retrieved 2019, from

Jamie Lords, Sales and Marketing Strategist