Many of us know very well the myriad positive impacts service-learning has on its participants. As Shelley Billig of the RMC Research Corporation asserts in a 2004 research summary, “Service-learning, when implemented with high quality, yields statistically significant impacts on students’ academic achievement, civic engagement, acquisition of leadership skills, and personal/social development.”
But in the new educational and political environments shaped by No Child Left Behind, educators – and, importantly, legislators – are often first drawn to teaching methods that strengthen student achievement. Grades, standardized test scores, and truancy and dropout rates figure prominently in both programmatic and policy discussions surrounding education. Corporations and their charitable foundations, too, are increasing the emphasis on student achievement in their educational initiatives.
Consequently, it is increasingly important for service-learning advocates to stress these points when talking with colleagues and policymakers. Without this emphasis, sustaining the progress in the service-learning field and the funding level for Learn and Serve America may become progressively more difficult.
Ross Wilson - Director, Government Relations, Youth Service America