Service Learning in Pennsylvania Public Schools

Open Access
Miller, Samantha Emily
Area of Honors:
Political Science
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Michael Barth Berkman, Thesis Supervisor
  • Gretchen G Casper, Honors Advisor
  • service learning
  • Pennsylvania public schools
  • educational policy
Service learning research shows that implementing it into public school curriculum can raise the quality of education for its students. After conducting a comprehensive search of all operable websites for service learning programs in each of the Pennsylvania Public Consolidated Area School Districts it was found that 340 school districts have service learning and 123 do not have service learning. Additionally, 30 school districts applied for and received 2009-2010 PA Learn and Serve grants. The schools with service learning programs, on average, were found to have significantly higher median household incomes than school districts without service learning. Furthermore, school districts with service learning have lower percentages of students enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs than those districts without. Service learning districts also are larger and have less white students enrolled than those districts without. It was found that school districts that applied for the PA Learn and Serve grants to implement service learning in their districts reported numbers more similar to districts without service learning when analyzing median household incomes and students enrolled in free and reduced lunch programs. However, the size of the districts and the number of white students are more similar to districts with service learning. The findings support the conclusion that wealthier school districts choose to finance service learning programs in their schools. This demonstrates that school districts in Pennsylvania do value the presence and benefits service learning has on their students. The poverty indicators of the grant applicant districts evidence the fact that poorer school districts do want to integrate service learning into their schools, but lack the necessary financial capacity to do so. These findings lead to two policy recommendations for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The first advises that The Department should create and maintain a database of school districts that offer service learning while also tracking the quality of the programs. The second insists that the Commonwealth increase the amount of grant money available to assist low-income school districts in starting and developing service learning into their schools so that equity is established for the Pennsylvania public school service learning opportunities.