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Service Learning Can Help Schools Build Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Skills


Alexandria, VA – Schools seeking to develop students’ social, emotional, and academic skills should consider service learning as one way to help students apply those skills, according to a new NASBE analysis. State boards of education are uniquely positioned to support and model such community service initiatives.

According to the NASBE State Policy Database on School Health, as of the 2017–18 school year, 37 states and the District of Columbia required or encouraged school districts to offer community service education and service-learning programs. Service learning intentionally connects community service to classroom learning. It embeds service activities within academic classes to help participants achieve specific learning goals aided by related assignments, reflection, and instruc­tion. Several studies suggest service learning can lead to significant gains in academic performance and engagement.

Many state boards of education, including Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, and the District of Columbia, support service learning opportunities by encouraging or requiring school districts to offer community service hours for academic credit, make community service a prerequisite for graduation, or award high school graduates completing community service a civics or service-oriented diploma distinction. State boards can also model community service by convening state and local stakeholders, leveraging community partnerships, participating in national days of service, and celebrating such work in schools.

“When enhanced through aligned classroom instruction, assignments, and reflection, community service connects all learners—regardless of aptitude or academic prowess—to the skill-building opportunities they need to succeed in academics, work, and citizenship,” writes NASBE Senior Policy Associate Megan Blanco. “Through policymaking, collaboration, and public recognition, state boards can foster these enriching learning opportunities while developing more engaged, informed, connected citizens.”

Read and share Harnessing Service Learning to Build Social, Emotional, and Academic Skills.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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