Promoting/Encouraging Greater Use of A Positive View of Youth via Service-Learning


The Center for School Change has worked for more than thirty years to promote service –  learning and helped produced three important advances in 2023  Service-learning combines classroom work and community service.  Joe Nathan wrote a column, “Toward A View of Students as Citizens,”  published by Education Week, in 1990 urging greater use of service-learning. Article

Three major achievements in 2023.

First, after a three-year discussion, the Minnesota Professional Standards and Licensing Board (PELSB) has approved standards for all Minnesota teacher preparation institutions and candidates for initial teacher licensure that include “The teacher understands the value of and knows how to implement instructional strategies that integrate real-world learning opportunities including service-learning, community-based learning and project-based learning, into instructional practices.”   This is on page 8 of standards approved in April, 2023, on page 8, in the Standards of Effective Practice,  found here.

In 2020, CSC began working with more than 50 others to encourage PELSB to require prospective teachers to learn the rationale and ways to use service-learning with students, regardless of age and subject matter.   The group also encouraged all prospective educators experience at least one service-learning project while preparing to teach.  More than 50 people signed this statement providing research and other support for these ideas.  The ultimate success of this effort is noted above.

thumbnail of Standards of Effective Practice (see 5-2)


Second, with leadership from CSC Co-Director Khalique Rogers, the Minnesota Legislature approved two bills that encouraged a specific form of service learning: helping young people learn construction skills as they build homes for low-income people and people experiencing homelessness.  

The first bill doubled funding for Youthbuild, a Minnesota and national program that helps youth with whom traditional schools have not succeeded, graduate either with a diploma or GED, as they learn various construction skills as they build homes, apartments for low income people, or rehab existing buildings. With strong bi-partisan support and leadership from Rep Matt Norris and Sen Zaynab Mohamed, this bill was included in a final comprehensive bill.  In fall, 2023, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development awarded a total of $600,000 to four Minnesota groups to expand this program.  DEED will award additional $1 million+ from the legislative appropriation to existing Youthbuild sites around the state.

The second bill allows, for the first time, public schools to apply for up to $100,000 from a state-wide po0l of more than $40 million, administered by the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency.  These funds are to be used to help construct new permanent, affordable housing for low-income Minnesotans and Minnesotans experiencing homelessness.  The money will become available in 2024.

Khalique Rogers testifying in Minnesota House with Rep Matt Norris

CSC then hosted two zoom Minnesotans to discuss the laws, and completed several case studies showing how some Minnesota public schools have created school construction programs.  These case studies are found here.  CSC also co-sponsored a national webinar with the Progressive Policy Institute and the online publication The 74, that focused on this idea. Rep Norris, Jody Nelson of GAP School and Khalique Rogers joined Tressa Pankovitz of PPI on this zoom meeting.

Third, a coalition of people convinced the Minnesota legislature to allocate $1 million for approximately 32 grants of up to $50,000 each, to promote service-learning in Minnesota public schools.  In 2020, CSC worked with the National Youth Leadership Council, Youthprise and Growth & Justice, among other groups, to seek legislative support for creation of additional service-learning programs around the state of Minnesota.

In 2023, with leadership from Minnesota Youth Council member Sage Hartman, long time volunteerism and service-learning expert Paula J. Beugen, and members of the “Reinvigorating the Conversation” coalition,  that legislation was approved.  The authoring legislative language is as follows:

2023 Mn Legislative Language about the service-learning grants

Article 2 Sec.  HF No. 2497, Conference Committee Report – 93rd Legislature (2023-2024) 05/15/23 02:14 PM


Subdivision 1. Definitions. (a) For the purposes of this section, the following terms have  the meanings given.  (b) “Eligible school” means a school district or school site operated by a school district, charter school, or Tribal contract or grant school eligible for state aid under Minnesota  Statutes, section 124D.83, or cooperative unit under Minnesota Statutes, section 123A.24,

Subdivision 2. (c) “Eligible service-learning partnership” means a partnership that includes an eligible  school and at least one community-based organization, community education program, state  or federal agency, or political subdivision. An eligible service-learning partnership may  include other individuals or entities, such as a postsecondary faculty member or institution,  parent, other community member, local business or business organization, or local media representative. A school district member in an eligible service-learning partnership may participate in the partnership through a community education program established under Minnesota Statutes, section 124D.19.

Subd. 2. Establishment; eligibility criteria; application requirements.

(a) A technical assistance and grant program is established to initiate or expand and strengthen innovative service-learning opportunities for students in kindergarten through grade 12; increase student engagement and academic achievement; help close the academic achievement gap and the community, college, and career opportunity gaps; and create a positive school climate and  safer schools and communities.

(b) At least one teacher, administrator, or program staff member and at least one service-learning specialist, service-learning coordinator, curriculum specialist, or other qualified employee employed by an eligible school and designated to develop and share  expertise in implementing service-learning best practices must work with students to form a student-adult partnership. Before developing and submitting a grant application to the department, a participating student must work with at least one adult who is part of the  initial partnership to identify a need or opportunity to pursue through a service-learning  partnership and invite at least one partner to collaborate in developing and submitting a  grant application. The fiscal agent for the grant to an eligible service-learning partnership  is an eligible school that is a member of the partnership or has a program that is a member of the partnership.

(c) An eligible service-learning partnership receiving an innovation service-learning  grant must:

(1) include at least two or more enrolled students; two or more school employees of an eligible school in accordance with paragraph (b); and an eligible community-based  organization, community education program, state or federal agency, or political subdivision;  and

(2) assist students to:

(i) actively participate in service-learning experiences that meet identified student and community needs or opportunities;

(ii) operate collaboratively with service-learning partnership members;

iii) align service-learning experiences with at least one state or local academic standard,  which may include a local career and technical education standard;

(iv) apply students’ knowledge and skills in their community and help solve community  problems or address community opportunities;

(v) foster students’ civic engagement; and

(vi) explore or pursue career pathways and support career and college readiness.

(d) An eligible service-learning partnership interested in receiving a grant must apply  to the commissioner of education in the form and manner determined by the commissioner.  The partnership must work with an eligible school. Consistent with this subdivision, the application must describe the eligible service-learning partnership plan to:

(1) incorporate student-designed and student-led service-learning into the school  curriculum or specific courses or across subject areas;

(2) provide students with instruction and experiences using service-learning best practices  during the regular school day with an option to supplement their service-learning experiences outside of the school day;

(3) align service-learning experiences with at least one state or local academic standard,  which may include a local career or technical education standard, and at least one goal of  the world’s best workforce in accordance with Minnesota Statutes, section 120B.11, or the  state plan submitted and approved under the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary 101.16 and Secondary Education Act;

4) make implementing service-learning best practices an educational priority;

(5) provide student-designed, student-led service-learning experiences that help meet community needs or develop or advance community opportunities; and

(6) identify at least one eligible school teacher, administrator, or program staff member  and at least one service-learning specialist, service-learning coordinator, curriculum specialist,  or other qualified eligible school employee designated to develop and share expertise in implementing service-learning best practices to work with students to form a student-adult  partnership that includes at least one community-based organization, community education 101.25 program, state or federal agency, or political subdivision.

Subd. 3. Innovation grants. The commissioner of education must award up to 32 grants  of up to $50,000 each to allow eligible partnerships to provide student-designed, student-led service-learning opportunities consistent with this section. Grant awards must be equitably  distributed throughout Minnesota by congressional district. The commissioner may designate  start-up or leader grant categories with differentiated maximum grant dollar amounts up to  $50,000. A grantee designated as a leader grantee may be required to meet additional leader grant requirements as established by the commissioner in the grant application criteria  developed by the commissioner. In order to receive a grant, a partnership must provide a  50 percent match in funds or in-kind contributions unless the commissioner waives the match requirement for an applicant serving a high number of students whose families meet  federal poverty guidelines. A partnership grantee must allocate the grant amount according to its grant application. The partnership must convey 50 percent of the actual grant amount  to at least one community-based organization, community education program, state or federal agency, or political subdivision to help implement or defray the direct costs of  carrying out the service-learning strategies and activities described in the partnership’s grant  application.

Subd. 4. Report. A grantee must report to the commissioner on the educational and developmental outcomes of participating students and the eligible school’s progress toward  meeting at least one goal of the world’s best workforce goals in accordance with Minnesota 102.12 Statutes, section 120B.11, or the state plan submitted and approved under the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. A grantee must report on the community outcomes achieved through student service-learning experiences and the  corresponding student service activities. The commissioner must submit a report on  participating student and community outcomes under this section to the legislative committees  with jurisdiction over kindergarten through grade 12 education by February 15, 2025.

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FEATURES OF QUALITY SERVICE-LEARNING: Not all service-learning programs are equally effective.  Here’s a link to standards for quality service-learning,   developed by the National Youth Leadership Council in cooperation with other leaders. variety of researchers.

Here’s a link to a special edition focused on service-learning of the magazine Phi Delta Kappan, co-edited by CSC director Joe Nathan

This article describes a service-learning class.  Students studied ways to resolve consumer problems, and to protect themselves as consumers.  They solved more than 150 consumer problems that adults referred to them.


Cover of a brochure used by Consumer Action Service students to gain cases

Here’s a link to a commentary published in Education Week, April, 1990, entitled “Toward a Vision of Students as Citizens” that Nathan wrote

Here’s a brief summary of research on service-learning, prepared by Professor Andrew Furco, University of Minnesota

thumbnail of Furco Research K-12 Service-Learning Research Summary – Furco – February 2019