Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Executive Summary

Kentucky faces many challenges in educating its children at all levels. This study focuses on elements of academic achievement of high school students. Previous studies have examined the effects of teacher training, the effects of peer influence, sorting of students and teachers across school districts, various learning interventions that have targeted specific student populations and subject areas, each in an attempt to explain or improve upon school achievement and student academic success.

Previous national studies have focused their attention on the effects of variables found within the classroom; most of these studies recognize that there are influences outside the classroom which can affect academic achievement. My research study focuses on the effect of these outside influences. Previous research on Kentucky suggests that students attending high schools in rural areas experience different opportunities for student interaction, activities, and teacher experience compared to students in other high schools. A question for consideration then is, “can the limited educational opportunities choices found in rural schools be offset or enhanced by community engagement?”

I use a school’s winning percentage in high school football as a proxy for “community specific social capital” (Fischel 2009). I incorporate the definition of community specific social capital provided by Fischel as being “one’s network of friends and acquaintances,…having established a network of personal relationships…” within a community as part of the interpretation of my data. Fischel further suggests that some of the most important sources of community specific social capital would be found in the suburban and small town communities. (Fischel 2009). I test whether the winning percentage of a school’s football team affects the average ACT score of the schools within rural counties. Classification of a school as rural is determined by criteria developed in the Common Core Database (CCD) from the National Center for Education Statistics. My data include the average ACT scores and the recorded participation of high school football teams of 234 high schools in Kentucky for the years 2008 – 2010. Results of the study indicate that there is a significant positive relationship that exists between a school’s in participation football and the average ACT score of schools within a rural locale.