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10_1 Promoting Civic Partnerships

Promoting And Sustaining Civic Partnerships: A Conceptual History, Framework, and a Call to Action

by Lawrence Neil Bailis and Alan Melchior

[S]ervice learning must be grounded in a network…of authentic, democratic, reciprocal partners…schools, community service providers, and community members.

--Dr. Barbara Jacoby, Building Partnerships for Service Learning

In recent years, a burgeoning literature has developed about how service-learning and civic-education partnerships can benefit both students and the communities they serve. When discussing the advantages of school-community partnerships, many practitioners acknowledge the distinction between "service to" and "service with" a community. These discussions reflect the positive impact that all participants can enjoy when schools, non-profits, community-based organizations, businesses, and government come together as partners.

Given the apparent benefits, why is the civic-education and service-learning world not being inundated by partnerships? Why are most teachers, college professors, and community leaders not falling over themselves to establish new collaborations? Answers to these questions generally revolve around the seemingly prohibitive amount of time, knowledge, and resources it takes to plan, oversee, assess, and strengthen partnerships.

For example, potential partners need to know each other well in order to move beyond surface ideas about collaboration and to introduce new partners to existing projects and programs. Teachers may be convinced that their students can learn better by working with other schools or community agencies but these teachers may not know how to find community partners or determine what is reasonable to ask of them. In addition, teachers have little time to develop relationships with agencies and community leaders. Service-learning coordinators can play this kind of brokering role but a coordinator's position is often difficult to fund and maintain with dwindling school budgets.

Few service-learning and civic-education practitioners deny the advantages of these partnerships; clearly, many point to the difficulty in promoting and maintaining them. Therefore, we need to stop asking whether educators and their students need to partner with communities and begin asking how to do so.

We suggest that the answer lies in creating sustainable, three-way partnerships. By "three-way partnerships," we mean efforts that involve all the following: (a) K-12 educators and their students; (b) higher-education professors, students, and staff; and (c) the leaders and staff of community agencies. When we say "sustainable," we mean relationships that are intended to go beyond the specific service-learning project that spawned them.

Although the facts we cite and the arguments we make are often based upon K-12 or college-based partnerships, we believe the lessons we advance are applicable to all levels of education.

A Brief History of Service-Learning Partnerships

Some educators find it hard to imagine discussions about civic education and service learning without including community partnerships. It wasn't always that way. When the service-learning movement first gained public recognition decades ago, many educators seemed to believe they knew what the community needed and that they could unilaterally design programs to serve the community while their students learned.

Many service-learning practitioners designed and implemented excellent programs using this approach. For example, the Summer, 1996 issue of Constitutional Rights Foundation's Service-Learning NETWORK featured an interview with middle-school teacher Alan Haskvitz, a nationally recognized leader in the field of service learning. Although partnerships were implicit in Haskvitz' projects, the words "partnership" or "partner" did not appear anywhere in the article, nor did he offer a rationale or methods to determine what kinds of projects would be helpful to the community.1

With the passage of time, educators who were implementing school-community projects began to address several related issues: How does one know what services will address real community needs? How would the community want to see these services delivered? Intuitively, many of these practitioners realized that real service to the community can only take place when real partnerships have been established with community groups or schools, partnerships that extend beyond idiosyncratic, one-time efforts to identify community needs and strategies to help.

In addition, the field has paid only sporadic attention to what civic-education and service-learning advocates really mean by the term "partnerships," to best practices in planning and maintaining partnerships, and to what constitutes high-quality partnerships. Also left largely unexplored: the dynamics of sustaining high-quality partnerships and the impact they have upon the lives of participating students and the communities they serve.

We will now address these issues on a conceptual level, highlighting what practitioners and policy makers are learning about these topics and providing examples from civic education and service-learning partnerships within the past decade. We will draw from two efforts to promote sustainable, three-way partnerships that we at Brandeis University have recently completed evaluating: the National Society for Experiential Education's (NSEE) National Community Development Program (NCDP) and the Corporation for National and Community Service's (CNCS) Community Higher Education School Partnership (CHESP) program.2

Civic-Engagement and Service-Learning Partnerships: A Conceptual History

We begin with the development of thinking about partnerships in civic engagement and service learning. Rather than a chronicle of specific events, we will focus on a three-step conceptual evolution: (a) Community Groups as Invisible Partners in which pioneering, school-based, service-learning practitioners seemed to feel qualified to define community needs by themselves; (b) Community Groups as Sites for Service Learning where practitioners recognize that the sites where service was delivered could be described as partners; (c) Community Groups as Equal Partners where practitioners recognize that, to deliver optimum benefits, school and community partners should be involved in all aspects of planning, implementing, and assessing civic-engagement and service-learning experiences.

(a) Community Groups as Invisible Partners

For much of its history, community partners have played an implicit role in service-learning concepts while their explicit needs--and resources--were often overlooked. A superb article in the Spring, 1999 issue of CRF's Service-Learning NETWORK illustrates this point. In the article, "Integrating Community Service Learning With School Culture," Sheldon Berman, Superintendent of Schools in Hudson, Massachusetts, discusses how service-learning can help bring schools and communities together:

Community service learning can form an important bridge between the community and the schools. We are living in a time when adults are suspicious of our youth and have very low opinions of them. Similarly, as declining civic participation among young adults shows, young people feel alienated and disaffected from our social and political community and often withdraw from participating in this arena. Service learning provides a bridge between young people and their community, giving young people a sense of hope, an experience of community, and a belief in their own personal effectiveness. In addition, service learning helps members of the community understand the contributions students can make to community improvement and brings them in direct contact with students and the instructional program of the school.

At the time, Berman's article accurately predicted a transition that service learning would make from its previously isolated position to the center stage in American schools, where it would be integrated into broader school-reform efforts. Today, we can notice that Berman made only minor references to community agencies as partners and no explicit reference to partnerships in his vision of a future service-learning world. This exclusion is noticeable in much of the leading literature at the time.

Similarly, partnerships were implicit but not explicitly integrated in best-practice standards that emerged in the early days of service-learning. The Wingspread Principles of Good Practice For Combining Service and Learning noted that "an effective program allows for those with needs to define those needs" and that "the actual recipients of service, as well as the community groups and constituencies to which they belong, must have the primary role in defining their own service needs." As in other instances, the Wingspread Principles never introduced the concept of "partnerships."

(b) Community Groups as Sites for Service Learning

Over time, K-12 educators and their higher-education colleagues have moved from self-defined community-service efforts to a more systematic definition of "community partners" as places where needs have been identified and real service is delivered. This definition has required educators to approach community groups to ask, "Would you find it helpful if some of our students came to your agency and did X?" Still, the initiative and the efforts to define the nature of community need came from the school side of the equation; few understood the need to approach community agencies as equal partners in determining needs and how students could best meet them.

This point of view appears to be inherent in the ASLER standards for quality in service-learning that were published in 1995. Here, the authors note that "agencies alone may not be able to absorb all the student placements, so meaningful service can be performed in schools as well." The partner role--although it is not referred to in this way--seems to be that of a sponge, a place where student service can be "absorbed."

(c) Community Groups as Equal Partners

Increasingly, the term "equal partners" is finding its way into the service-learning and civic-education lexicon. For example, the Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), a nationwide, non-profit organization that promotes partnerships between communities and higher-education institutions recently articulated nine principles of "strong, healthy community-campus partners," including the following: ". . . partnership balances the power among partners and enables resources among partners to be shared." A CCPH handbook includes references to "the integral involvement of community partners. . ." and ". . . a principle-centered partnership between communities and. . . schools." 3 As we see it, CCPH's best-practice ideal is equally valid for partnerships with K-12 schools or higher-education institutions.

Despite this progress in thinking, the implementation of equal partnering often lags behind the growing popularity of the concept. For example, an Abt-Brandeis evaluation of the CHESP program that was created to promote three-way partnerships revealed that only 38 percent of school-community partnerships involved all three types of partners (K-12, higher education, and community-based). The survey and fieldwork also revealed that many CHESP participants still viewed community groups as sites where service-learning takes place rather than as equal members in a working partnership.

What is to be Done?

As we grow more familiar with the concept of partnerships in service learning and civic education, a number of useful distinctions begin to emerge. To analyze existing service-learning and civic-education efforts and to plan future programs, we will make distinctions within three areas: (a) two-way versus multiple partnerships; (b) community groups as initiators of partnerships and service sites; (c) instrumental versus sustainable partnerships.

(a) Two-Way versus Multiple Partnerships

Many early service-learning and civic-education partnerships were comprised of a single school (often with a single teacher or professor) working with a single community agency. These simple, two-way partnerships are often adequate for planning a one-time-only project and can minimize demands on time and resources. Unfortunately, two-way partnerships can also foster a narrow, project-by-project, need-by-need view of a community that might not embrace its larger needs but might produce carbon copies of previous efforts or foster cyclical, "start from scratch" project strategies. In addition, two-way partnerships often do not draw upon resources and perspectives from diverse education levels or community sectors. A more sophisticated response to meeting community needs is possible only when there are multiple partnerships.

Practitioners are increasingly accepting a multiple-partnership model for designing civic-education and service-learning projects. Often described as a three-way partnership, this model brings representatives from K-12 and higher education institutions together with community groups to jointly explore school-community needs, plan and implement programs, and assess the results. As noted earlier in this article, this model was pilot-tested in the NSEE National Community Development Program and "rolled out" in the CHESP program.

Evaluations of both programs by Brandeis University researchers and their colleagues at Abt Associates showed that--although it may require more time and resources than have been previously allocated to simpler projects-- (a) it is feasible to create multiple partnerships, and (b) a majority of program participants believe that multiple partnerships were more beneficial to students and community residents than two-way partnerships or other forms of service-learning.

(b) Community Groups as Initiators of Partnerships and Service Sites

Community-based service learning has been the least studied and publicized of the service-learning models. We believe, however, that service learning in which community groups are the initiators of partnerships has long been part of the service-learning world. The YMCA of the USA is just one of many community-based organizations that has won wide acclaim for the variety and quality of service-learning and community-service offerings. For example, an ongoing "Connecting Our Communities" project involves 20 local YMCAs that take the lead in developing closer links with schools. Although community-based service learning is beginning to attract attention, more weight must be given to a basic underlying truth: partnerships work best when they are two-way streets with community groups and educators working as equal partners.

(c) Instrumental Versus Sustainable Partnerships

A distinction between instrumental and sustainable partnerships is beginning to emerge. In the former, a school and a community agency (or multiple schools and agencies) work together to plan, implement, and jointly assess the results of a single, isolated civic-education or service-learning project. In such an effort, there is no expectation that the relationship will continue once the project is completed. Unfortunately, instrumental partnerships often disappear after they are completed and are often susceptible to repetitive expenditures of project-building energy.

Sustainable partnerships, on the other hand, involve agencies that agree to build lasting relationships with the potential to extend over years, long after the initial project has been completed. This agreement also allows partners to (1) get to know each other better than during a single-semester or year-long project; (2) avoid wasting time and energy on repetitive searches, introductions, and project growing pains. With sustainable partnerships, participants can focus on developing activities that are more responsive to the long-term and more subtle needs of community partners and the students who are providing the service.

In a booklet entitled Community Schools--Partnerships for Excellence, the Coalition for Community Schools4 addresses the central role of sustainable partnerships in some detail.

Boiled down to the basics, a community school is both a set of partnerships and a place where services, supports and opportunities lead to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities. Using public schools as a hub, inventive, enduring relationships among educators, families, community volunteers, business, health and social service agencies, youth development organizations and others committed to children are changing the educational landscape--permanently--by transforming traditional schools into partnerships for excellence.

Finally, the Kellogg Foundation's recent Learning In Deed initiative was centered, in large measure on the core concept of promoting sustainability of service-learning, presumably through sustainable partnerships. For example, the Learning In Deed Policy and Practice Demonstration Project promoted opportunities to institutionalize service-learning at the state and local school district level in five states. In many cases, this has occurred due to ongoing sustainable partnerships between schools and community groups.

We believe this evidence supports the argument that--although often more difficult to implement in the short run--service-learning and civic-education policy-makers and practitioners will benefit by moving toward sustainable partnerships as they seek to institutionalize their efforts.

Facing the Music: Civic Education, Service-Learning, and Square Dances

Potential benefits of partnerships must be balanced against the actual time and resources it takes to get them off the ground. Participants in our most recent studies suggest that, in the long run, efforts to build sustainable partnerships require fewer resources than efforts to build new ones whenever a new perceived need arises; that efforts to promote civic education and service-learning work best when multiple school and community partners work together in ways that transcend any one project and seek to build on-going sustainable partnerships.

We believe that the development of sustainable three-way partnerships should receive increased attention and support from policy-makers who can share information and provide resources and incentives to develop this emerging partnership model. We hope that future conceptual histories of the field will be able to document improvements in the quality of the service and the benefits to all partners, schools, students and communities alike.

While "change your partners" is a frequent call at square dances, we believe that "keep your partners, get to know them better, and work together to build better partnerships" is a far better call in the world of civic-education and service-learning.

Lawrence Neil Bailis, Ph.D. is an associate research professor at the Heller Graduate School at Brandeis University and a senior research associate at the Brandeis Center for Youth and Communities. Alan Melchior is Deputy Director of the Center. Together they have conducted studies of more than a dozen service-learning programs.

1 Similarly, references to partnerships cannot be found in the index of the 1999 book Service-Learning: A Movement's Pioneers Reflect on Its Origins, Practice, and Future by Stanton et al.

2 These studies were conducted for the NSEE and CNCS respectively. The opinions presented in this article are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the funding agencies, the Center for Youth and Communities, or of our partner in the CHESP study, Abt Associates.

3 Freeman, Nola L. A Meeting of Minds, A Handbook for Community-Campus Engagement. Community-Campus Partnerships for Health. San Francisco, 2003.

4 For more information on the Coalition for Community Schools, visit www.communityschools.org/partnerships.html.


The Robinson Mini-Grant Program

Constitutional Rights Foundation's Robinson Mini-Grant Program honors the late Maurice R. ("Robbie") Robinson, a tireless champion of innovative and effective civic education. Each year, thanks to a generous grant from the Maurice R. Robinson Fund of New York City, Constitutional Rights Foundation seeks to celebrate "Robbie's" championship by awarding mini-grants to K-12 service-learning projects designed to develop citizenship knowledge, skills, and attitudes while they address real community needs.

Listed below are several projects that received funding during the 2003-2004 Mini-Grant Program. Each of these superb citizenship projects addresses a community need that exists within the larger realms of civic engagement, health, poverty, hunger, environment, mentoring children and youth, crime and safety issues, and aging.

Civic Engagement

Operation Good CitizenW.R. Tolar K-8 School, Bristol, Florida

Project goal: Heighten the awareness of state government and to instill the value of good citizenship

Operation Good Citizen underscores the importance of voting and good citizenship. After learning about local and state government, fifth-grade students will visit the Florida state capital and attend a legislative session. Students will then prepare a documentary video to share with K-4 students. The documentary will identify the structure and function of local, state, and federal government as defined by the Florida State Constitution. Acting as mentors, students who prepare and screen the documentary will also administer and evaluate a pre- and post- test to assess learning in the younger mentees.


Ouzel Falls Interpretative Trail, Big Sky, MontanaOphir School, Gallatin Gateway, Montana

Project goal: Environmental awareness through community education leading to better care of the land

Middle-school students in Big Sky, Montana have determined that local residents need to understand the impact of regional environment on their community. Accordingly, they plan to develop an interpretive component to an existing hiking trail. To implement the plan, students will use classroom, standards-based practices to research ecosystem topics, write, design, and print brochures, and build and install informational signs along the trail. In the process, they will present their outcomes for review by the school board and student body. Evaluation will be based on research and design outcomes and student journals.


Diaper Service ProjectLutheran Social Services of Indiana, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Project goal: Increase awareness of poverty and social responsibility

In response to statistics showing an increase in poverty levels among families with infant children, elementary students will partner with community-service organizations to supply diapers to families living below the poverty level. They will also create a curriculum designed to develop skills and methods for studying and reporting about poverty issues and efforts to address them. Students will publicize their project by performing dramatic sketches on poverty and social responsibility. Student participants will use journals to document and evaluate their experience.


Gonzaga Prep and Hillyard Heritage Museum Oral History ProjectGonzaga Preparatory School, Spokane, Washington

Project goal: Record living history for future generations

As the oldest neighborhood in Spokane, Hillyard plays a unique role in the history of the region. Many residents of this long-standing community survive as an untapped source of local history and lore. The Oral History Project is designed to enhance a local museum's history collection by electronically recording and transcribing stories from Hillyard residents. Student participants will first learn about Northwest history as outlined in the U.S. history standards. Next, they will conduct, transcribe, and archive oral histories with elderly local citizens and members of the Hillyard Heritage Museum. The completed product will be donated to the Museum. Questionnaires will be used to evaluate response to the project.


Alaska Youth Courts Form Legislative Coalition

In 2002, a group of Alaskan students met at a statewide conference in Ketchikan to discuss problems facing their youth court system. Tops on their agenda: youth court budget woes. Student leaders from fifteen different communities had seen the consequences of economic hardships on the Alaska youth court system. For example, youth court director positions suffer high turnover because of low salaries and poor benefits. Abby Levin, director of Juneau's youth court remarked, "I happen to be a doctoral student . . . [P]art-time work with no benefits is appropriate to my circumstances, but this will only be true for a short time."

The youth-court activists at the conference understood the validity of Abbey Levin's position. They understood that the youth court budget forecast for the future was even bleaker. They also knew the value of youth courts to Alaska. They understood that one-thousand-plus students involved in Alaska's statewide youth court movement formed an ad hoc army of volunteers who have promoted restorative justice in Alaskan communities in desperate need of attention. They knew that most youth courts tried--with good-hearted intentions--to do more with less funding and rarely complained. Whitney Cushing, Chairman of the Alaska Youth Courts' Legislative Coalition, notes that the people associated with youth courts had bragged so little that few people know of their successes--or their problems. Despite the positive impact youth courts were having on Alaska's communities, youth court advocates and programs experienced dwindling federal funds critical to their existence.

The youth court activists decided that it was time to create a Legislative Outreach Coalition. They would find ways to broadcast Alaska's youth court successes while partnering with community and legislative leaders who might be interested in keeping Alaska's youth courts afloat.

The Youth Court Coalition partnered with the offices of Alaska State Representative Dan Ogg and State Senator Burt Stedman, to work out a legislative strategy intended to persuade the State of Alaska to help ease the burden on the state's youth courts. The Coalition's strategy produced Alaska Senate Bill 292 and House Bill 303, "an act relating to youth courts and to the recommended use of criminal fines to fund the activities of youth courts…" The bills moved quickly through committee where many members added their names as co-sponsors.

In addition: The Coalition has encouraged regional Alaskan youth courts to partner with their electoral district's representative, to advocate for youth courts as (1) an essential instrument of the courts, (2) a model for teaching community service, and (3) a method for teaching about the value and positive impact of civic engagement and influencing policy. Ongoing Coalition partnerships include:

  • Alaska State Legislature

  • Anchorage School District, Alaska Association of School Boards, Alaska Court System including the state's Division of Juvenile Justice, U. Alaska at Anchorage Justice Center, the Municipal Attorney's Section of the Alaska Bar Association, Alaska Association of Student Government, the Alaska Conference of Mayors, and others.

  • Schools: Alaska youth court programs are based in three communities, with teachers serving as Coalition mentors.

  • Community partners include justice professionals in each Alaskan youth court community. Nearly 150 judges and attorneys volunteered 2,667 hours in the last fiscal year.

  • Businesses and other in-kind partners donate regularly to youth courts in Alaska.

  • The United Youth Courts of Alaska works out of office space donated by the Anchorage branch of the international law firm, Perkins Coie, LLP.

  • The Alaska Humanities Forum donated to the statewide youth court conference.

In the year since the Coalition first met, they have brought Alaska's youth courts into high profile for a host of community leaders, state legislators, educators, businesses, the local justice systems, and others, making them aware that youth courts have ultimately saved money and prevented tragic and costly recidivism among Alaska's youth.

For more information, contact Krista Scully, United Youth Courts of Alaska at (907) 278-1165; e-mail: UYCA@alaska.net, or visit the web site at: www.alaskayouthcourt.org.

Building Partnerships: A School-Community Workshop

Workshop Preparation

Workshop Goal: Bring together teachers, students, and individuals from government, business, and non-profits to develop strategies for building--and sustaining--service-learning partnerships.

Workshop Length: one half-day session

Workshop Materials: blank flip-chart paper, magic markers, tape

Finding Workshop Participants:

  • Create a mix. Ideally, this workshop should mix service-learning and community-service veterans with newcomers.

  • Search the three domains for participants: local government, business (including the media), and non-profits.

  • Real needs make real partnerships. Look for community groups and individuals who have real service needs and can articulate them to students, teachers, school administrators, and others. Look for individual volunteers who want to contribute energy, expertise, and resources to the community.

  • Go with enthusiasts. Invite people and groups who are receptive to the notion school-community partnerships.

  • Think long-term. Look for people who are interested in community service for the long run. Effective school-community partnerships get better with age.

Workshop Procedure

  1. Ask participants to introduce themselves by describing (a) one volunteer, service, or service-learning project they have implemented; (b) one thing they learned about working with new people (It was uncomfortable, we had different goals, I met a bunch of new people, etc.). Record each answer.

  2. Explain that participants will leave with a list of strategies designed to make it easier for community members, teachers, and students to work together.

  3. Divide the workshop members into three small groups, one each for teachers, students, and community members. Explain that each group will (a) work together to identify challenges; (b) present and discuss their findings with the larger group; (c) break into mixed groups to develop strategies for addressing challenges.

  4. Ask each group to select a facilitator, a recorder, and a reporter for the presentation. Ask each group to consider "What challenges have you had working with teachers, students, and community members?" Have them list ALL challenges and choose the three most important challenges.

  5. Reconvene the larger group and have each group report their findings. Compare the three lists. Where are there similarities? Where are there differences? Have the larger group reach consensus on the three most important challenges.

  6. Re-divide the larger group into three mixed groups. If possible, have an equal number of teachers, community members, and students in each group. Give each group ONE of the three challenges to address. Ask "How should we solve this challenge?" Ask the group to brainstorm and list ALL possible solutions by asking "What will work? What is realistic?" Have each group select their three most promising solutions, or strategies, to report to the group.

  7. After each group reports their three most promising solution/strategies, have participants evaluate each group's findings. Will this strategy work? Is it a realistic strategy? Allow everyone to contribute his or her ideas.

  8. Debrief the activity by reviewing the chosen challenges and the strategies they developed to address them. Ask "Is this a helpful process? Would you use this process to find useful strategies to address future challenges? How would you continue this process to develop sustainable partnerships?"

Students Create Community-Data Web Site

  • Does your library have enough books?

  • What is the pollen count of your city?

  • Do you have enough parks?

  • Are there hazardous materials in your community?

  • Do you live in a stressful city?

  • Is the air quality good in your area?

Find this information and more on "National City Comparison," a web site created by students in Alan Haskvitz' Walnut, California classroom. This useful, student-friendly web site applies concepts of creating and interpreting statistical data to students' own communities.

Haskvitz' middle-school students developed the web site to study their own community, assess statistics from the web site links, and create a "report card" to present to their community leaders that highlights both community successes and problem areas that need to be addressed.

For more service-learning resources, check out www.reacheverychild.com.

CRF's Service-Learning NETWORK Earns High Grades

Over a dozen years ago, Constitutional Rights Foundation approached the Ford Foundation with a proposal to provide educators with service-learning resources for connecting classroom work to the community. The result was a grant for CRF to publish and distribute Service-Learning NETWORK.

Today, Service-Learning NETWORK reaches 14,000 educators nationwide. In a recent study, the Ford Foundation and CRF evaluated NETWORK's impact on the service-learning community. They found:

  • 80 percent of survey respondents routinely share Service-Learning NETWORK with a minimum of two other educators.

  • 25 percent share Service-Learning NETWORK with more than 10 other educators.

  • 96 percent apply ideas and examples from Service-Learning NETWORK to their classrooms.

  • 95 percent share ideas and examples from Service-Learning NETWORK with other teachers.

  • 99 percent said that CRF should continue publishing Service-Learning NETWORK.


Statewide Civic-Education Initiatives

In recent years, surveys and studies have registered a declining interest and involvement in civic affairs among Americans. This trend is especially pronounced among young people. Paradoxically, young people are volunteering at historically high rates. How should educators respond to these contradictory trends?

Alabama, Maine, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Rhode Island have all established commissions and policy-setting initiatives to address this alarming slump in civic awareness. California is about to join the statewide civic-ed movement with its own initiative program. Below are two brief profiles of efforts to support the need for civ-ed reform.

CRF Initiates California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools

In 2001, the Carnegie Foundation of New York and the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) convened a distinguished group of educators, researchers, and scholars to study the problem of civic education in America and make recommendations for its improvement. In their report, The Civic Mission of Schools, the panel identified four goals of civic education and recommended six promising approaches to improve it.

Funded by a generous grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the California Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools will apply the goals and recommendations outlined in the Carnegie/CIRCLE report to strengthen civic education in California's public schools. The Center for Civic Education joins Constitutional Rights Foundation in this effort. For more information, visit the CRF web site.

Citizenship Education: State Policies to Support Citizenship Education

National Center for Learning and Citizenship (NCLC)

State Policies to Support Citizenship Education offers several successful models of statewide efforts to promote citizenship education. This seminal and up-to-date report is broken down into three sections: definitions and methods to support citizenship education; models of existing state policies, and questions for policymakers. This document and other valuable civic-education resources can be accessed at www.ecs.org/nclc.


Building Partnerships for Service Learning

Dr. Barbara Jacoby (Editor), and Associates
ISBN: 0-7879-5890-5
Hardcover400 pp.
Indianapolis. 2003.
Also available as e-Book

Service learning has the potential to yield tremendous benefits to students, communities, and institutions of higher education. Increased student learning has been well documented. As communities gain new energy to meet their needs and greater capacity to capitalize on their assets, service learning enables higher education to fulfill its civic responsibility. When service learning inspires colleges and universities to transform themselves into fully engaged community institutions, its ability to bring about positive social change is limitless.

To be successful, service-learning must be grounded in a wide range of solid, reciprocal, democratic partnerships. Building Partnerships for Service-Learning assembles leading voices in the field to bring their expertise to bear on this crucial topic. Faculty, administrators, student leaders, and community and corporate leaders will find this volume filled with vital information, exemplary models, and practical tools needed to make service-learning succeed in the long run.

Building Partnerships for Service-Learning includes:

  • Fundamentals for developing sustainable partnerships.

  • Assessment as a partnership-building process.

  • Collaboration between academic affairs and student affairs.

  • Partnering with students to enhance service-learning.

  • How to create campus-wide infrastructure for service-learning.

  • Profiles of outstanding partnerships.

  • Service-learning and the civic renewal of higher education, and more.

For more information, visit Wiley Publishers' web site .


The Complete Guide to Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways to Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, and Social Action

Cathryn Berger Kaye
ISBN 1-57542-133-X
Paperback 227pp.
Free Spirit Publishing Inc.

The Complete Guide to Service Learning is designed to help educators and community-service practitioners integrate service learning in a classroom or community group and develop a culture of service learning at school and in communities. This guide also offers strategies to create service-learning projects with theme-oriented chapters ("AIDS Education," "Community Safety," "The Environment," "Hunger and Homelessness," and more) serving as organizers and springboards for planning and implementing service-learning projects.

Each thematically structured chapter includes activities, methods for making cross-curricular connections, and examples of projects dealing with each theme. A theme-oriented "Bookshelf" bibliography designed to increase literacy and provide information resources rounds out each chapter.

For more information, contact Free Spirit Publishing,(800)735-7323.

Brown v. Board of Education: 50th Anniversary Resource

On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution forbids laws segregating public schools by race. Brown v. Board of Education opened the doors of opportunity for many Americans.

Constitutional Rights Foundation presents a series of online lessons and research links marking the 50th anniversary of the Brown decision. Examples include:

  • John Brown on Trial
  • The Southern "Black Codes"
  • Lynching in America
  • Race and Voting in the Segregated South
  • Social Protest in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Race and Representation
  • The Adarand Case: Affirmative Action and Equal Protection
  • Equal Opportunity in the Military
  • Including the Disabled Student
  • Gay Rights and the Constitution
  • The Color of Justice
  • Reparations for Slavery
  • Action Project, a guide for planning a service-learning project.
  • Diversity Checklist: ERACISM

You can help "erase" racism in your community. Many sociologists believe that racism, like violence, has "risk factors," elements that may contribute to racist attitudes and behaviors. Among others, stereotyping, labeling, and a belief in racial, or ethnic superiority are all racial risk factors. If you remove any or all of these risk factors, racism tends to diminish or disappear from a family, school, or community environment. The Diversity Checklist below features seven simple suggestions that students and teachers can use to "erase" racism.

Expand your circle of friends. Look around. Do students in your school tend to hang out with people from their own racial or ethnic group? If there aren't any integrated clubs or teams at your school, start one.

Race is not always the reason. Some conflicts are just "people problems"--a lack of understanding, a breakdown in communication. Take a deep breath and think a minute before you decide that race is the reason for a conflict.

Act against racism. Take a stand against racism. Don't laugh at racist jokes and don't just ignore them. Let your friends know how you feel. "I don't think that joke is funny" is easy to say. Call attention to bias. Are students from one racial or ethnic group encouraged more to achieve? This behavior is called "bias." Do other students and teachers notice the same biases in your school?

Investigate your own racism. Even if we don't realize it, we may have biases and prejudices. It doesn't mean we are racists. Don't just ignore your racist feelings. Talk to your friends about them, in order to see them more clearly.

Set a good example. Talk about and treat all people with respect. Be a role model for others.

Make a difference. Brainstorm ways that you and your friends can erase racism from your school. Choose one brainstorm idea and enlist other people to help you put your idea into practice.


Constitutional Rights Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization committed to helping our nation's young people to become active citizens and to understand the rule of law, the legal process, and their constitutional heritage.

Established in 1962, CRF is guided by a dedicated board of directors drawn from the worlds of law, business, government, education, and the media.

CRF's program areas include the California State Mock Trial, History Day in California, youth internship programs, youth leadership and civic-participation programs, youth conferences, teacher professional development, and publications and curriculum materials.

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