August 20, 2009

Sign-On Statement to U.S. Dept. of Education (deadline: 8/26)

Dear Friends of Service-Learning:

As you may know, the U.S. Department of Education recently released a draft document for the “Race to the Top” initiative. Service-Learning United will submit a collective statement on behalf of the service-learning community (see here). This statement was developed over a three-week period with extensive input and feedback from multiple service-learning leaders and organizations.

You are invited to add your organization’s name to list of organizations signing on in support of the statement.

Sign-ons will be accepted until 1:00 p.m. eastern on Wednesday, August 26.

The goal of this joint statement is to ensure that service-learning has a place “at the table” as this administration lays out its priorities for education. Within this context, it is important that the service-learning field and our partners make some very concrete suggestions for changes to the text of Race to the Top. In an effort to focus our work we have focused on these three elements in our suggestions:

1. Affect the general composition of the standards by focusing standards around higher graduation rates and readiness for postsecondary and career success using applied learning opportunities.
2. In the body of the text, insert service-learning in areas making reference to applied and relevant learning experiences.
3. In the definition section, define existing terms in ways that provide more openings for service-learning.

The members and supporters of Service-Learning United want to create better standards, measure progress toward those standards through better data, and use this data to incentivize performance that once again leads back to the standards.

Use this link to add your organization’s name to the list of supporting organizations.

Please respond by no later than 1:00 p.m. eastern on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 to ensure your organization’s name is included on the final cover letter.

For the purposes of this letter, we can only accept organizational sign-ons at this time. We encourage individuals who want to express their support for service-learning to do so by submitting their own letters to the U.S. Department of Education.

Contact NSLP Policy Fellow at Ace Parsi if you have questions or need more information.

Please also share with your colleagues and affiliates.

Thanks in advance for your support and continued leadership.

Nelda Brown, Executive Director
National Service-Learning Partnership
Service-Learning United

P.S. For more information on the Race to the Top.

Background on Race to the Top
The U.S. Department of Education is planning to leverage the $4.3 billion allocated to it through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to create substantial changes in education. The primary goals of Race to the Top are to

· have states adopt “internationally benchmarked standards;”
· “recruit, develop, retain, and reward effective teachers and principals,”
· build data systems that support higher performance; and
· turn around low performing schools.

The initial goal of creating better standards provides the foundation for the rest of the goals. Once broader, better, and more uniform standards are created, states must create assessments to gauge progress in meeting those standards. Thereafter, principals, teachers, and their schools are held accountable to and rewarded for meeting and exceeding goals for student achievement and student growth. Meanwhile, these various stakeholders are to be kept more informed of their progress by a more responsive and rigorous data system.

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