Center for Youth and Communities

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Citizen Leadership and Service Learning

During the past fifteen years, the Center has become a nationally-recognized leader in research and evaluation of service-learning programs in K-12 and higher education. In addition to its research, the Center houses the Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program. The Program's goal is to develop and prepare the next generation of citizen leaders.

In partnership with several other research organizations, the Center for Youth and Communities has conducted five major studies of the Learn and Serve America programs for the Corporation for National and Community Service, the agency overseeing federally-funded service-learning initiatives for school and college-aged young people.  These studies include the national evaluations of the Serve-America and Higher Education Innovative Projects grant programs (as subcontractors to Abt Associates) in 1992-94; the national Learn and Serve evaluation (1994-98); a study of the institutionalization of service-learning among Learn and Serve grantees (2001-2003, with Westat and the New England Resource Center for Higher Education); and the evaluation of the Corporation’s CHESP program, which provides grants to partnerships involving schools, community organizations, and higher education institutions to expand and strengthen service-learning in their communities (2001-2003, with Abt Associates).  Currently, the Center is working with the Corporation on the design and implementation of a new program reporting system for the national Learn and Serve America program.

The Center’s work on service-learning also includes a number of evaluation projects with state education agencies and national and regional service-learning organizations.  The Center is currently working with the Departments of Education in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Maine, and KIDS Consortium (a regional service-learning intermediary) on a three-year evaluation of federally-funded service-learning programs in New England.  The study includes a pre/post/comparison group design, as well as surveys of school faculty and community partners.  Approximately 50 schools and 3000-4000 students will be participating in the study over the three-year period.  Other projects have included evaluations of the Active Citizenship Today Program (a civic education and service-learning initiative in three school districts) for the Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund; development of reporting and evaluation systems for the national Earth Force, Do Something, and Building with Books Programs; evaluations of the KIDS CAN and Living Democracy programs operated by KIDS Consortium throughout New England; and design of statewide service-learning evaluation and reporting systems for the Rhode Island Department of Education and for the Massachusetts Department of Education.

One of the Center’s major projects focused on K-12 service-learning was the evaluation of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s service-learning initiative: Learning In Deed.  This $13 million, four-year initiative aimed at fostering the integration of service-learning (which links community service to classroom instruction) within mainstream education.  The evaluation documented and assessed all of the major components of the initiative, including the creation of a blue-ribbon commission on service-learning (chaired by Senator John Glenn); formation of a new, national leadership organization for service-learning advocates; promotion and support for increased research on service-learning; and a five-state demonstration project aimed at promoting state and district-level policies and practices that effectively integrated service-learning into public education.

The Center also brings extensive experience working with service-learning programs in the higher education community.  The Center is currently working with the School of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell on a three-year project to evaluate its school-wide effort to integrate service-learning into the undergraduate engineering curriculum.  The Center is also evaluating the higher education programs on more than a dozen New England campuses funded through a Learn and Serve grant to the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Campus Compacts.   Finally, the Center recently managed the evaluation for Brandeis’ University’s own internship and service-learning initiative, funded by a grant from the Davis Foundation.

The Center’s work on service-learning has also led to involvement in projects focused on the broader concept of citizenship education and civic engagement.  The Center is currently working with the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools to evaluate its multi-state initiative to develop Civic Mission campaigns in over 20 states.  The study, which has been funded by the Carnegie Foundation, CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), and the Ford Foundation is designed to document Campaign efforts at the national and state levels and help to identify “lessons learned” about the characteristics of effective education advocacy efforts.

The Center’s work on K-12 service-learning has also led it to undertake an important field-building role.  Through a grant from the National Service-Learning Partnership and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Center is leading a three-year project to bring junior scholars interested in service-learning together with experienced researchers in an effort to encourage new research in the field of K-12 service-learning.  The Service-Learning Works in Progress Seminar is being conducted in partnership with CIRCLE (The Center for Information & Research on Civic Engagement and Learning) at Tufts University and the International Center for the Study of Public Engagement and Service-Learning (ICS-PESL) at the University of Minnesota.  The project organizes an annual Seminar with new and experienced scholars, and provides ongoing mentoring support to emerging scholars over the three years of the grant.

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