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Service-Learning and Community Service in K-12 Public Schools
NCES: 1999043
September 1999

About the Survey

After nearly a decade of emphasis on increasing student involvement in service activities, measuring the extent to which service-learning and community service occur in K-12 public schools is an important step in assessing its overall effect. The National Student Service-Learning and Community Service Survey was designed to meet this need for data, focusing particularly on service-learning. This report seeks to answer several important questions:

  • What percentage of schools have students participating in community service?
  • What percentage of schools organize community service activities for students?
  • What percentage of schools have students participating in service-learning?
  • In what ways are schools implementing service-learning?
  • What types of support are available for teachers interested in integrating service-learning into their course curriculum?
  • What are schools' main reasons for encouraging student participation in service-learning?
  • What special grants or special funding are available to support service-learning or community service?

Prior to this survey, there were no reliable national data available to indicate the prevalence of service-learning in elementary or middle schools. It was assumed, based on very limited information, that the percentage of elementary schools with service-learning was negligible, and that the percentage of middle schools with service-learning was low. Consequently, a sample was drawn that included disproportionately more high schools than elementary or middle schools. It turns out, however, that significant numbers of elementary and middle schools are engaged in service-learning. Thus, while the sample is nationally representative and unbiased, the design is statistically inefficient for some overall estimates that include all three instructional levels (elementary, middle, and high). Therefore, while reported differences between subgroups may appear to be large, the large standard errors render the apparent differences not statistically significant. For example, while differences between schools with students participating in community service activities based on percentage of minority enrollment may appear to be large, none of the comparisons are statistically significant.

Data have been weighted to national estimates of regular public schools. All comparative statements made in this report have been tested for statistical significance through chi-squared tests or t-tests adjusted for multiple comparisons using the Bonferroni adjustment and are significant at the .05 level or better.