Saturday, June 6, 2020
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What a great love kids have for sports!

Nobody will be surprised to know that athletic teams play a big role in students’ enjoyment of school, but at some low-performing schools, where academic missteps have forced a redirection of budget money toward tutoring and other interventions, sports don’t get any time in the limelight.

It doesn’t mean the kids at those schools don’t love sports, however, so taking sports out of their lives at school is likely to mean they’ll enjoy school less.

One school district in Massachusetts, a shining success story in a nation of “failing schools” that never seem to get any better, has stepped up athletics (and fine arts) to rise as a powerful exception to the rule—in many, many ways.

The school district in Lawrence in 2011 became the first in Massachusetts history to be placed in receivership, so things weren’t looking good. A year later, this ghost mill town was dubbed “City of the Damned” by Boston Magazine for its soaring crime rate and “failing schools.”

But then, Paul Reville, a professor of education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education who formerly served as the Massachusetts education secretary, drafted a turnaround strategy for Lawrence and gave broad powers to the district’s new administrator, Jeff Riley, the Yerepouni Daily News reports.

Mr Riley used those new powers to develop a “hybrid” model that “brought in all sorts of providers, charter providers, community-based organizations to help in the work,” Mr Reville was quoted as saying. Their initiative also includes teachers visiting students in their homes and other wraparound services, such as helping families find new homes, providing rental assistance, helping with the job hunt, and recommending dentists.

But many of the nonprofit partners now spend lots of time with kids in sports and some non-athletic games. That helps with the enjoyment of school—and life. The high school graduation rate in Lawrence went from about 52 percent in 2011 to 72 percent in 2015, and the dropout rate was cut roughly in half.

Whatever sports team you like, the past 12 months have been fantastic, according to a student journalist at Beavercreek High School in Ohio, near Dayton. Writing in The Beacon, the student newspaper at the school, he shares some of what he noticed in this amazing year in sports. With the permission of the paper’s faculty adviser, we present his report in its entirety.

Beginning with that breathtaking shot by Villanova to beat UNC at the buzzer and ending with the greatest Super Bowl comeback victory in history, I’d say that this year’s championship games were pretty sweet, to say the least.

To start the year, UNC and Villanova faced off in the college basketball national championship and brought the game down to the wire. As UNC stopped the clock with 4.7 seconds left after drilling a 3-pointer to tie the game, Villanova came right back and scored a buzzer beater to win the game 77-74.

Next, in the NBA Finals, the Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead and allowed the Cavaliers to come back and win in Game 7. Not only did the Warriors completely blow the last three games, but they made their historic 73-9 season appear insignificant.

Then, in the MLB World Series, the Cleveland Indians did the same thing as the Warriors and blew a 3-1 series lead as the Chicago Cubs came back and won in Game 7. Not only did they force Game 7, but the Cubs won in extra innings to make the game even more special.

After this, in my personal favorite championship game of the year, the underdog Clemson Tigers rallied to beat the Alabama Crimson Tide as Deshaun Watson threw a last-second touchdown. Throughout the game, Clemson trailed the Tide but put together a 68-yard drive with 2:07 left on the clock to win and make history.

Finally, we had the Super Bowl. The Atlanta Falcons led the New England Patriots by a score of 28-3 in the third quarter, but Tom Brady came back with 25 unanswered points in the second half to force overtime in the only Super Bowl game in history to be tied at the end of regulation. In overtime, the Patriots won the game as James White ran in for the touchdown.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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