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SSL Implementation Plan

I. Implementation Plan and Curricular Connections

A. Minimum Level of Student Engagement

The Maryland State Board of Education has adopted the following regulation to enact the service-learning requirement. Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 13A.03.02.06:

Student Service

Students shall complete ONE of the following:

(1) Seventy-five hours of student service that includes preparation, action, and reflection components and that, at the discretion of the local school system, may begin during the middle grades, OR

(2) A locally-designed program in student service that has been approved by the State Superintendent of Schools.

The Charles County Public School system has adopted and been approved to follow OPTION (2), a locally-designed program that does not count specific hours, but instead concentrates on quality of student experiences in service learning versus quantity.

Charles County Public Schools embeds the service-learning process in a variety of disciplines at grades 6, 7, 8, and 9. The grade level hour equivalent is: Grade 6 – 10 hours; Grade 7 – 25 hours; Grade 8 – 15 hours; Grade 9 – 25 hours. The minimum hour equivalency for the total service learning program in these four grade levels is 75 hours.

B. Curricular Connections

1. Service learning is a component of the following grade levels and courses:

Grade Course(s) Preparation Hours Action Hours Reflection Hours Total Hours
Grade 6 ELA/Character Education 2 6 2 10
Grade 7 Science 6 17 2 25
Grade 8 Health 5 8 2 15
Grade 9 Local, State, and National Government 6 17 2 25

2. The incorporation of the curriculum into each of the above subject area courses was conducted as part of the regular curriculum development and review process. In all cases, the embedded service-learning component is designed to be a process by which the content and skills needs of the course are met. The curriculum development was completed by content area curriculum specialists and teachers, with the assistance of service-learning fellows and coordinators. The final service learning curricular components were evaluated, edited, and eventually approved by the CCPS service learning coordinator and the content specialist for the appropriate subject area.

3. The service-learning components in each course are designed to meet the needs of the subject area, as well as meeting the 7 Best Practices criteria of the service-learning program. Additionally, the College and Career Readiness Standards are built into the various grade level service-learning programs.

4. The action phase is a significant part of the service learning program. This is ensured by the development of units and lessons that emphasize the action portion of the project, in addition to containing elements of preparation and reflection. Monitoring of the amount of time, as well as the quality of all phases of service learning is the direct responsibility of the school-based service learning coordinator in collaboration with the content area teachers. The county-based quality review process conducted each year is used to evaluate and address inconsistencies in implementation if and when they occur. Time allotments are indicated in the units and lessons which incorporate service learning to guide instruction and to ensure that the action components are adequately addressed.

5. Units and lessons of the subject areas at each grade level either mandate or encourage a particular form of service learning experience. While service-learning components have a tendency to address more than one form (direct, indirect, advocacy) at a time, there is a tendency to focus on certain types of service learning experiences at each grade level based on the nature of the content and the particular topic that serves as the basis for the project in that course. The primary types of service learning emphasized for each course is listed below.

Grade 6 – Advocacy/Direct Action
Grade 7 – Advocacy/Direct Action
Grade 8 – Indirect Action/Direct Action
Grade 9 – Advocacy/Indirect Action/Direct Action

6. Service learning projects are created as a partnership between the curricular needs of the content addressed in conjunction with the criteria requirements and best practices essential to all service learning projects. Specific projects are the product of curricular teams at each school, with the assistance and consent of the school-based service learning coordinator.

The ninth-grade component offers more flexibility to teachers and students in determining the exact issue, topic or content of service learning. This is done to recognize the importance of motivation and interest level in the service learning implementation process. All choices of service learning experiences are subject to county level evaluation and approval. In addition, the Project Citizen Program serves as the format for the preparation and reflection components of the 9th grade service learning experience. This is done in order to provide a structure for the variety of community-based issues that may be selected by the students and teachers for the service-learning project.

Once service-learning projects have been identified for each school year, the school-based service learning coordinator submits a Project Description Form. This form describes both the logistics (topic of project, staff and grade levels involved, time frame for action components, etc.) in addition to the manner in which the project will address the 7 Best Practices for service learning. A digital version of this form is submitted to the county service learning coordinator annually at the start of the school year. One of the fall meeting sessions for coordinators is devoted to reviewing and critiquing of the service learning descriptions and revisions are recommended as needed.

C. Assessment & Evaluation

1. All service learning experiences are designed to fully address the 7 Best Practices as outlined by MSDE. School-based service learning coordinators ensure a quality level linkage between the Best Practices and the service learning experiences by approving projects at the beginning of the school year, and through the evaluation process prior to finalizing student report cards.

Annual evaluations of the school and county-based service learning programs are conducted. School programs are evaluated by the SSL county coordinator through the use of the Quality Review process, and by using a rubric similar to the one used for this process developed by MSDE. Principals are also responsible for reviewing the projects at the end of the school year through discussions with the appropriate teaching staff and the school-based coordinator.

2. Because the service-learning program is embedded within grades 6-9 curricula, there is not an option for independent service learning projects. Post – ninth grade service learning is the responsibility of individual students and the school-based coordinator. Students must obtain an SSL Individual Activity Packet that contains directions for how they create and implement their own service learning experience. All student created projects are subject to initial approval, and eventual evaluation by the school-based coordinator.

D. Transfer Policies

For out-of-county students transferring to the school system after the ninth grade, the service learning recorded on the permanent record is accepted by Charles County Public Schools. If the previous county uses completed hours to evaluate service learning progress, the total number of hours accumulated by the student at the date of transfer is attributed to that student. The student is then provided with Independent Activity Packet (IAP), which contains elements of Preparation – Action – Reflection, and utilizes the 7 Best Practices for evaluation, for completion of the remaining service learning. The extent of the service learning completed as part of the IAP is based on how much service learning the student has already accomplished.

Students transferring to the system from out-of-state are responsible for the units during which they are in Charles County. If a student has not completed service-learning by the conclusion of 9th grade, the IAP must be completed. In this case, it is also the amount of service learning the student has already accomplished that determines the extent to which the IAP must be completed. In all cases, it is the school- based service learning coordinator that makes these determinations in consultation with the Charles County Public Schools Service-Learning Coordinator.

Once a student reaches the end of their ninth-grade year, any portion of the project that is still incomplete is addressed by student completion of the IAP as well. This also applies to transfer students. The following scale allows for a graduated level of service-learning and is based upon the year in which a student transfers into Charles County Public Schools.

Grade 09 transfer student – completion of 4 IAP projects
Grade 10 transfer student – completion of 3 IAP projects
Grade 11 transfer student – completion of 2 IAP projects
Grade 12 transfer student – completion of 1 IAP project

Students transferring out of the Charles County Public School System are provided with an equivalency chart. These charts accompany the transfer records of the student to the next school system. In the event that the new school system uses hours as a measure of service learning completion (and because Charles County does not – see COMAR options), the following chart provides the necessary transfer information.

A student who has completed… Has completed a total of … And has a cumulative of…
Sixth grade (6) 10 service learning hours 10 hours of service learning
Seventh grade (7) 25 service learning hours 35 hours of service learning
Eighth grade (8) 15 service learning hours 50 hours of service learning
Ninth grade (9) 25 service learning hours 75 hours of service learning

E. Connections

1. The service-learning program and the CCPS Character Education program are linked as a curricular thread throughout the sixth-grade year. The coordination and monitoring of this aspect of the program is under the direction of Character Education coordinators at each middle school. The seventh-grade service-learning component is now directly related to the STEM initiatives through its incorporation into the grade level curriculum. 

Service-learning is used as a means to address instructional objectives for Drug Awareness and Prevention efforts in the school system through its incorporation into the eighth grade Health curriculum. Completion of the project at this grade level provides students with information on the adverse effects of drug abuse, and well as enabling students to act as advocates of drug abuse prevention in their schools and communities. The partnership with the Charles County Department of Health provides students with a direct link to the various types of drug abuse prevention programs that are available and gives the students an authentic venue for utilizing their final projects to meet a community need.

The ninth-grade component is linked to civic education initiatives in the Local, State, and National (LSN) government course. Students use a modified version of the Project Citizen process to complete this project. They work in groups or classes to investigate, select, research, and provide potential solutions for community-based issues. The groups or classes then problem-solve to decide on a final solution and complete their project by putting this solution into action.

2. The service-learning program has a direct link with environmental education as part of the science curriculum in the seventh grade. The fourth quarter curriculum in which it is embedded addresses environmental science and is aligned with the STEM initiative standards. The project has also been revised to address the Environmental Literacy Standards required of the school system.

In addition, the county service-learning program collaborates with the Nanjemoy Creek Environmental Center on a variety of environmental science projects. This includes projects to create and maintain wetlands areas on school sites within the county. Students at the middle, high, and even elementary levels are part of these projects to encourage the re-establishment of native plant and animal species to the region.

3. Service learning is included in the Master Plan for Charles County Public Schools. The specific goal is to “Implement, monitor, and refine the Student Service-Learning (SSL) local plan.” Specifics of the plan include the annual training and retraining of service learning coordinators, continued monitoring and evaluation of the quality of the county and school-based programs, development and maintenance of community-based partnership, and continual efforts to publicize and educate the importance of the program to students, parents, school-based staff, and the community as a whole.

II. Infrastructure

The primary duty of the school-based Student Service learning teacher/coordinator is to ensure that every student has the opportunity to complete his or her student service-learning requirement in order to be eligible for a high school diploma.

The school-based Student Service Learning Teacher/Coordinators are required to perform a number of functions. These include:

  • maintaining extensive records on students who have/have not completed the program satisfactorily;
  • working with the administration, faculty, and parents to coordinate student completion;
  • developing and disseminating information to staff, students and the public on the concept and requirements of the program, particularly graduation requirements;
  • constantly meeting with individual students who need clarification on the process, projects, or paperwork involved in the SSL process;
  • acting as a liaison for the SSL program between school and community, and between the school and Central Office;
  • providing technical information/assistance to teachers regarding ideas for SSL projects and advice on compliance of student SSL projects; and
  • attending all mandatory county service-learning meetings throughout the school year.

III. Student Leadership

1. The students and student groups brainstorm solutions to a variety of community issues and needs. Students have an active role in identifying which solutions will constitute the action portion of their service-learning experience. Additionally, some schools sponsor clubs in which students take leadership roles.

2. Students choose service learning experiences or projects primarily through the guidance of teachers in the subject area classrooms. Particularly at the 9th grade level, students are provided opportunities to identify community issues or needs that they are interested in making the focus of their service learning experience. Students in grades 10 –12 completing the SSL Individual Activity Packet have autonomy in choosing their service learning topics with the consent of the school-based coordinator.

3. Students record their progress toward the completion of the 9th grade service learning experience. Teachers monitor the progress and completion of the preparation, action, and reflection components of the projects throughout the experience. Students utilizing the SSL Individual Activity Packet are required to self-monitor their progress through the Preparation – Action – Reflection process, and report periodically to the service learning coordinator at the school.

4. Charles County Public Schools encourages all middle and high schools to annually recognize students at each grade level (6, 7, 8, and 9) for outstanding student service learning. County-based nomination forms are completed, and certificates of achievement awarded to students selected for this honor. Schools typically make these presentations as part of end-of-year awards ceremonies. Nominations may be submitted when students have completed at least ten or more hours beyond the seventy-five-hour requirement, and the project(s) completed by the student have been designated as exemplary.

IV. Community Partnerships, Public Support and Involvement

1. Charles County Public Schools approves community sites for service-learning through the county coordinators. The service-learning partnership with the Charles County United Way includes an approval process for affiliated agencies that are interested in becoming a ‘service learning host site’. Agency applications for host site status are subject to the approval of the county coordinator and are based on the relation of 7 Best Practices to the nature of activities that the agency outlines in the application.

School-based projects that include partnerships outside of this list of host sites are subject to the approval of the school-based SSL coordinator. When necessary, it is also subject to approval by the county SSL coordinator.

2. Since its inception, the Charles County service-learning program has identified thirty-three United Way affiliated agencies as host sites. Additionally, approved school-based partnerships with other ‘non-host site’ agencies bring the number to approximately thirty-five. Not all of these partnerships are utilized in a particular school year but serve as options for all schools as part of their service-learning experience.

3. The Charles County Public Schools – United Way partnership also includes the distribution of the annual Charles County Directory of Human Services (a United Way Publication) to all schools in the system, especially to the guidance departments and service-learning coordinators at each school. Additionally, a portion of the CCPS website provides information on the county service-learning program, including information regarding agency partnerships.

4. The CCPS website provides updated information on the service learning program. School-based coordinators are encouraged to provide information to parents of students at the start of each school year by distributing the county SSL brochures at “Back to School” nights each August. Many school-based SSL coordinators also provide brochures and information about service-learning at grade level assemblies at the start of each school year.

5. Parents receive notification regarding student participation in a variety of ways. All middle and high schools provide advance notice to parents by sending letters informing them of participation in the projects. Monthly school newsletters often include information on service learning. The CCPS Website devoted to service learning also provides general information to parents regarding the structure and process of the service-learning program.

6. All forms needed for individuals to access information on the county service-learning program are available on the county website. Additional information necessary for organizing the program within the school system is available through document folders on the Office 365 system now utilized throughout the county, and available to all service-learning coordinators, counselors, and administrative staff. Additionally, schools are encouraged to include service-learning information about the grade-level project descriptions, agency partnerships, and project deadlines on the Edline pages of their school websites.

7. The College of Southern Maryland (CSM) now collaborates with Charles County Public Schools to coordinate some of the service-learning opportunities for students. These are available through a digital warehouse of projects that are made available through the public school system and on the CSM website. Most of these project opportunities are used to address those students that must complete an intervention project as a result of missing an earlier project embedded in grades 6-9. There are also opportunities for public school students to work with college students on projects when the need arises and the criteria for the project addresses the 7 Best Practices.

8. The partnership between Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) and the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) provides continuous and authentic service-learning experiences for both public secondary students and college students. The combined approach is designed to create a more seamless and integrated approach to providing for the needs of the Charles County and Southern Maryland communities. The process is provided through the dual efforts of the CCPS Service-Learning coordinators and the CSM Office of Youth and Family Programs.

V. Professional Development and Training

1. County-based service-learning coordinators receive training as part of monthly meetings conducted each year and facilitated by the county-based coordinators. Training, while focused on the individual needs of each school, always include the review of MSDE program regulations and criteria, Charles County implementation plans and issues, and general requirements for school-based implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. At the county level, administrative and guidance meetings are often used as a forum for updates on the service-learning program relevant to their needs. Frequent communication between the county coordinator and the relevant content specialists (Character Education, Health, Language Arts, and Science) is maintained.

Regular contact is maintained with the content specialists for the subject areas directly involved in the service-learning program. Content Specialists for Health, English and Science are regularly invited to monthly service-learning meetings in order to clarify questions about implementation of the program in their content areas. Information regarding the status of students in the program is communicated regularly to the schools in cooperation with Department of Student Services, and with the use of the Data Warehouse and AS400 Tracking systems.

All opportunities publicized by the MSDE regarding professional development, conferences and continuing education courses is forwarded to the school-based coordinators for their own purposes, as well as for them to make this information available to the appropriate staff at their schools. Principals are regularly informed of these opportunities through school-based visitations and memos.

2. At the county level, the service-learning program is under the direction of the Social Studies Content Specialist. All information about the county program originates with this office and any questions regarding the program are directed to it. As a result, the administrative assistant for the Social Studies Content Specialist is one of the most important lines of communication. When new to the position, the administrative assistant is trained on the service-learning program in addition to other duties, is updated regularly on the school projects taking place, and is provided access to all information and materials on the program in order to communicate with the school system and public when the Social Studies Content Specialist is not immediately available. 

School-based coordinators hold the responsibility for training and updating school staff (e.g., content area teachers, department chairpersons, secretaries, etc.) on the service-learning program. Department meetings and/or entire school-staff meetings are often the format for this training. County-based power points, brochures, and websites are distributed and/or communicated to all of these personnel in order to assist them in being a resource to the public on the service-learning program. School-based coordinators provide annual reviews and meetings with the school- based counselors, data-entry clerks and teachers in order to provide updates and to address the informational needs of new staff members.

VI. Accountability

1. The first step in the accountability process is the use of an SSL Documentation Form. This form has the dual purpose of providing information about the quality of the program at the classroom level and giving essential information to the school-based coordinators on which students have not completed their service learning at each grade level. Once service learning projects are completed, these forms are submitted to the school-based coordinators by every middle school and high school teacher involved in the process. These forms utilize the 7 Best Practices for Service Learning as the criteria for evaluating the projects. The forms are reviewed at the last county service learning meeting each school year. They are used as a means to improve the program and are submitted to the SSL county coordinator.

2. A second verification form is completed by high schools at the end of the 9th grade service learning experience. This SSL Notification Form is of particular assistance in recording if a high school student has not completed their entire service learning experience. Service-Learning Notification Forms are distributed annually to schools for their use following the completion of projects. In addition to student identification information, the form also includes the format by which students will need to complete the service-learning experience, and mandatory signatures from the SSL sponsor, coordinator, student and appropriate teacher.

3. All tracking information regarding student completion of service learning is a combined effort of the school-based coordinators, data-entry clerks and the counseling offices throughout the school system. When changes are made to the status of individuals or groups of students, the information is entered throughout the AS-400 data system and then transferred to the CCPS data warehouse. This particular step in the process makes the data available in conjunction with other graduation requirements. In this way, administrative, counseling, and service learning staff have full access to all graduation status data in one location, including service learning. Student completion of service learning is indicated on the CCPS report card. Each student’s status is updated at the end of their sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grade school years. Student report cards read as, “MET” or “NOT MET”, depending on the designation appropriate for each particular student.

4. The quality of all CCPS service learning experiences is assessed annually through the administration of both a teacher-level and school-level quality review process. An evaluation form based on the 7 Best Practices is completed annually by each teacher with responsibility for implementing a portion of the service learning program. Additionally, and in consultation with administrative and support staff, the school-based service learning coordinator completes a Quality Review document prior to the end of each school year. This evaluation form is also based on the 7 Best Practices and encourages the school staff to reflect on the service learning program annually in order to improve their program and the county program as a whole. The final SSL meeting each year is a review of these documents from each school and a sharing of areas for improvement and best practices derived from them.