Reimagining School Sports: Charter Schools

April 27, 2021  • Sports & Society Program

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Key Points

  • 1,400,000 students attend 3,100 charter schools but only 49% offer interscholastic sports and less than 19% of students participate.
  • The most popular sports at charter schools include girls' and boys' basketball, girls' and boys' soccer, girls' volleyball, and boys' tackle football.
  • The sports girls most commonly wished their school offered include swimming and track & field, while boys most often wish their school offered tackle football and archery.
  • 80% of charter school athletes say they plate sports to have fun. 49% of non-athletes report too much schoolwork as a reason they aren't playing.

A Project Play initiative of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, “Reimagining School Sports” recognizes the essential role that high schools play in preparing young people for life – and the cognitive, educational and health benefits that flow to students whose bodies are in motion. The initiative aims to make quality sport and physical activities accessible to all students by identifying strategies that administrators and other leaders can adopt, aligned with the mission of schools and within the context of a comprehensive education.

The Aspen Institute invited all schools to share their innovations and apply for recognition. A $20,000 award is given to one winner in each of eight school types, made possible by our project partners – Adidas/Reebok, The Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation, and Hospital for Special Surgery. Reports on each school type are being released in 2021, followed by a final report in early 2022 that will make systems-level recommendations that can drive progress across all school types.

Only 49% of charter schools nationwide offer interscholastic sports to their students, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. For traditional schools, it’s 91%. Sports just aren’t a major feature at many charters, a category born from a desire by parents for greater school choice, including options to traditional public schools with lower graduation rates. This challenge is why the Sports & Society Program launching its “Reimagining School Sports in America” series of reports with charter schools – to begin pumping big ideas into the bloodstream around how to deliver programs that meet the needs of students and prepare them to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

Why We’re Reimagining School Sports in America
June 22, 2020 • Tom Farrey