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PROBLEM: Community Service (CS) has been enshrined as a panacea for the problems of declining civic involvement among American Youth. Developing a framework to understand the impact of these programs is an essential component to evaluating their effectiveness.

HYPOTHESES: Four hypotheses were tested:
1. CS participation has a positive impact on the self-esteem of students.
2. Participation in CS has a positive impact on the students' sense of civic inclusion.
3. Participation in CS with the elderly has a greater positive impact on perception of the elderly than other types of CS.
4. Students that participate in CS show greater interest in pursuing additional CS activities than students that did not participate.

METHOD: The target population of this study was the ninth-grade class (n=79) at a local private school that requires es. This population was divided into an experimental group (those choosing to perform their CS this year) (n=27) and a control group (students who elected to defer) (n=52). A pair of survey instruments were administered to the students: the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory and a composite survey which includes questions dealing with the four hypotheses under investigation. This survey was designed to be administered in pre- and post-test format. As a means to better link the variables and improve the quality of the data, interviews with students (0=13) were conducted. FINDINGS: Analysis of variance of the Coopersmith Self-Esteem Inventory, total score and subscales, found no significant difference on all but one of the subscales between the groups. Those students in the CS group, the experimental group, demonstrated significant group difference on the pretest school self-esteem subscale [F(1.77) = 6.39, p< .01] measure from the non-CS group. Significant mean differences in sense of civic inclusion were found between the post-test scores of the groups [F(1,76)=5.93, p<.01]. Moderate effect size, .42, was found between the two groups. Qualitative results from the interviews conducted with 13 of the 27 CS participants mirrored the quantitative findings.

CONCLUSIONS: School districts are adopting CS programs without any measure of their impact, much less any considerations for evaluation more generally. This study may provide the basis for future evaluation and fine-tuning of CS programs.


© 1998 Judy Reese

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