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School Volunteers: A Statistical Profile INTRODUCTION Although wide attention is being paid to the importance of unpaid vol- unteers and their contributions to the educational process, surprisingly little of a current or reliable nature is known about the size of this group of people, its composition, its distribution, or the breadth of its activities. Most studies conducted in the past have dealt with a very broad scope of volunteerism; thus, the ability to extract information solely on volunteers in schools, and especially on activities contributing to the educational process, has been severely limited. In addition, the variety and looseness of the definitions used have made it difficult to develop comparisons be- tween various studies. And other studies have only a few items devoted to volunteer activity in the schools, providing limited useful information. Thus, in developing the profile of volunteers in this chapter, we used, as much as possible, data from a variety of sources. The main source, how- ever, was the data provided by the U.S. Department of Education's Na- tional Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The committee has been most fortunate that its work coincided with the efforts of the NCES to produce current and reliable information on teachers, school administrators, and school policies and practices. To meet the need for information on the critical aspects of teacher supply and demand, the composition of the administrator and teacher work force, and the general status of teaching and schooling, NCES mounted an inte- grated survey covering the 1987-1988 school year; it involved seven dif- ferent inquiries to schools, school districts, principals, and teachers, in both public and private sectors. The sample for the 1987 effort consists of 12
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE 13 9,300 public and 3,500 private schools throughout the 50 states. Two of the seven surveys those addressed to public and private schools-each contain two questions on the use of unpaid volunteers. Responses were obtained from 90 percent of the public schools and 70 percent of the private schools. The questions were similar to those included by NCES in a study of public schools conducted during the 198~1985 school year (and one of private schools conducted in 198~1986) and, thus, for the first time, some comparisons of changes over time are possible. It should be emphasized, however, that the data in this report from the 1987-1988 survey are preliminary; corrections may be forthcoming, as well as adjust- ments for nonresponse; when these data are published by the center in the near future, slight differences may be expected. Preliminary data from the 1987-1988 NCES surveys are presented in Appendix A. It is important to note that the questions used in both the 1987-1988 and earlier surveys are prospective in nature, asking an administrator to estimate how many volunteers the school expects and will use during the full school year that has just begun. For the 1987-1988 survey, the ques- tions were as follows: Do any UNPAID VOLUNTEERS provide services for this school? Do not include students from this school as unpaid volunteers. How many unpaid volunteers do you expect will perform services at this school on a CONTINUING OR SCHEDULED BASIS during the 1987-1988 school year? Furthermore, the forms were not accompanied by instructions defining the terms, thus leaving interpretations of the questions to the respondent. Accordingly, the numbers entered by the school staff may reflect a wide variety of different influences, such as the experience of the previous school year, expectations based on the new school year, hopes and aspirations rather than reality, the desire to see a stated goal accomplished, or a mis- interpretation of the questions. In the absence of any evaluation to mea- sure the extent to which the guesstimate deviates from the actual use of volunteers during the year, the numbers must be viewed with appropri- ate caution. Nonetheless, results from these two surveys provide the best and most consistent basis at this time for comparing the use of unpaid volunteers in schools. Several comments about some statistical aspects of surveys should be noted. The estimates presented in this chapter are mostly derived from samples and as such are subject to sampling variability. The measure of variation due to sampling (the estimated standard error of a statistic) pro
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14 VOLZINTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS vices an indication of the precision of the estimates derived from the sample. Estimates derived from the studies conducted by NCES gener- ally have relatively small standard errors, and the reports issued by NCES present examples of standard errors for a number of representative statis- tics. Thus, when NCES publishes final results of the 1987-1988 study, measures of sampling error will be included. Similarly, reports contain- ing data from the 1985 survey will present measures of error. When such information was readily available for the other studies cited in this chap- ter, it is noted in the text. The reliability of estimates is directly related to the number of cases in a cell, and caution should be exercised in the interpretation of figures based on a relatively small number of cases, as well as in the interpreta- tion of small differences between estimates. If the questionnaires had been completed by different respondents, the responses would have been different; some numbers might have been higher, while others might have been lower. The data also reflect the effects of nonsampling problems, such as the failure of some respondents to reply to the questionnaire, misunderstand- ing on the part of respondents as to the proper meaning of the questions, failure to answer all of the questions, errors in coding or processing the results, or failure to adhere to the specifications in carrying out the sur- vey. These sources of error also affect the reliability of the results. Gener- ally, no allowance is made in this chapter for these sources of error. THE NATIONAL PICTURE Some 1.3 million people were expected to participate as school volun- teers in the school year beginning in the fall of 1987, according to prelimi- nary information prepared by NCES from the Schools and Staffing Sur- veys conducted in the fall of 1987: about l million people were expected to contribute their time to the public schools, and an additional 295,000 un- paid volunteers were expected in private schools. The 1987 figure for volunteers in public schools is not substantially different from the 1.1 million reported by NCES for 1985; the figure for volunteers in private schools at the current time, however, is almost three times the 1985 figure of 100,000. Volunteers were found in about 47,300, or 60 percent, of the nation's elementary and secondary public schools; the comparable figure for private schools was 17,700, or 65 percent of all private schools. The remainder of this discussion describes the public school sector, which was the focus of the charge to the committee (see Table 3-1~. How- ever, when available, data are presented for private schools (see Table 3- 2~. The expected use of volunteers varied widely between schools in the
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE 15 1987-1988 school year. For example, in schools with small enrollments (fewer than 150 students), about 40 percent reported no volunteers, and the 60 percent that reported the use of unpaid volunteers averaged about seven volunteers per school. At the other extreme, about 75 percent of schools with more than 500 students reported the use of volunteers, and they averaged close to 30 volunteers per school. There is greater use of volunteers at the elementary level: volunteers are found at 75 percent of elementary schools, and there are an average of about 24 volunteers per school; at the middle and secondary school levels just over 50 percent report the use of volunteers, with an average of about 15 volunteers per school. Public schools with high minority enrollment (50 percent or more) were less likely to use volunteers and reported fewer on average than did schools with lower minority enrollment. Close to 50 percent of the minority schools reported no volunteers, and those with volunteers indicated an average of about 15 volunteers per school; by comparison, about 30 percent of schools with less than 50 percent minority enrollment reported no volunteers, and those with volunteers average about 22 volunteers per school. This same relationship holds when the use of volunteers is examined by the compo- sition of the teaching staff. Of schools with less than 20 percent minority teaching staff, 75 percent reported using volunteers and averaged about 22 volunteers per school; of the schools with 50 percent or greater minor- ity teaching staff, less than 50 percent used volunteers, and the average was about 17 volunteers per school. There are a number of possible explanations for these findings. Schools with high proportions of minority enrollment generally are located in areas whose residents have relatively low incomes. As a result, parents may be less likely to have either the time or the energy to engage in vol- unteer activity; there may be fewer intact families and fewer parents over- all to participate; and there may be less understanding in such areas of the need for and importance of providing volunteer services. Whatever the cause of the imbalance, it is quite clear that children in such schools have less opportunity to receive any of the benefits that can be obtained from volunteer help. It also can be suggested that the possible benefits of school volunteers to children in such areas, in fact, would be much greater than in other areas or circumstances, given their probably greater needs. Geographically, 70 percent of public schools in the West used volun- teers and they also had the highest average number of volunteers, almost 27 per school. Just over 50 percent of schools in the South reported the use of volunteers, with an average of 23 volunteers per school. In the northeast and north central regions, 65 percent and 75 percent used vol- unteers, respectively; both regions reported an average of 16 volunteers per school.
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16 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS TABLE 3-1 Public Schools with Volunteers, 1987-1988, by Selected Characteristics Average Number TotalTotal of Volunteers CategorySchoolsVolunteers per School Total47,3021,015,442 21.5 Enrollment Less than 1503,16721,659 6.8 150-2997,33784,368 11.5 300-49914,516281,418 19.4 500-74911,072329,952 30.0 More dean 7507,342194,383 26.5 NA/NR55426 7.7 Minority Enrollment Less than 5 percent14,255254,425 17.8 5-19 percent11,042299,843 27.2 2~49 percent8,471199,674 23.6 5~74 percent4,18772,187 17.2 More than 75 percent4,86572,454 14.9 NA/NR67113,623 20.3 Minority Teachers Less than 5 percent20,970404,287 19.3 5-19 percent10,944284,684 26.0 20~49 percent6,499129,458 20.0 5~74 percent2,06435,703 17.3 More than 75 percent98914,053 14.2 NA/NR2,02444,021 21.8 Type of School Elementary31,198739,144 23.7 Middle/junior5,03171,668 14.2 Secondary3,82061,230 16.0 Combined1,86518,864 10.1 Other1,55721,180 13.6 NA/NR18121 6.6 Type of Community Rural/farming12,123140,881 11.6 Towna10,902210,479 19.3 Suburban8,474270,323 31.9 Urban11,529285,462 24.8 Other3244,112 12.7 NA/NR138950 6.9
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE TABLE 3-1 (Continued) 17 Average Number Total Total of Volunteers Category Schools Volunteers per School Region North Central 12,254 194,618 15.9 Northeast 6,369 104,661 16.4 South 14,798 341,641 23.1 West 10,069 271,287 27.0 Less than 50,000 population. NA/NR: Data not available or not reported. NOTE: The totals reflect an adjustment for survey nonresponse. The details, however, have not been adjusted to reflect nonresponse, either to the full survey or to a specific characteristic. Accordingly, the details do not add to the totals and differ somewhat among tables. SOURCE: Unpublished data from the U.S. Department of Education. Rural areas and small towns had the smallest number of volunteers, fewer than 20 on average; suburban areas turned out the largest number, about 32 volunteers per school. The average for urban schools was 25 volunteers per school. The results from this most recent study confirm the widespread use of volunteers in public schools. Irrespective of school size or location, and irrespective of the makeup or mixture of student bodies or teaching staff, volunteers evidently are viewed and accepted as a useful component of the education process. Nonetheless, variations in the use of volunteers do exist, as noted above. Overall, about 25 percent of all elementary schools and more than 50 percent of all middle and secondary schools report no use of volunteers. The implications of these differences should be exam- ined. Studies should be undertaken to provide understanding and guid- ance as to why some schools use volunteers and others do not, as well as to how volunteer programs can be improved. Unfortunately, the latest NCES study did not obtain information on the activities of volunteers. To offset this limitation to some extent, we have used results from the 1985 study, which did include such information (see Table 3-3~. Those results show that the major focus of volunteer activity in the public schools, occupying almost 40 percent of all volunteers, was in the area of instructional support, such as tutoring, grading papers, monitoring in science laboratories, conducting rote exercises, and the like. The next most reported activity, involving about 30 percent of volunteers,
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18 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS TABLE 3-2 Private Schools with Volunteers, 1987-1988, by Selected Characteristics Average Number TotalTotal of Volunteers CategorySchoolsVolunteers per School Total17,738345,994 19.5 Enrollment Less than 1506,25343,714 7.0 150-2994,65087,289 18.8 300~991,89854,525 28.7 500-74978227,117 34.7 More than 75035617,564 49.4 NA/NR Minority Enrollment Less than 5 percent6,433115,143 17.9 5-19 percent4,17561,877 14.8 2~49 percent1,62727,829 17.1 50-74 percent59414,698 24.8 More than 75 percent9235,917 6.4 NA/NR1884,744 25.3 Minority Teachers Less than 5 percent9,900170,762 17.2 5-19 percent2,14939,950 18.6 20-49 percent7596,770 8.9 50-74 percent2911,390 4.8 More than 75 percent2231,622 7.3 NA/NR6169,713 15.8 Type of School Elementary8,653146,103 - 16.9 Middle/junior1781,998 11.2 Secondary -85523,727 27.8 Combined2,43435,423 14.6 Other1,81722,947 12.6 NA/NR110 10.0 Type of Community Rural/farming2,32922,373 9.6 Towna3,59751,132 14.2 Suburban2,77762,202 22.4 Urban5,19894,189 18.1 Other6214 35.0 NA/NR3399 3.3
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE TABLE 3-2 (Continued) 19 Average Number TotalTotal of Volunteers CategorySchoolsVolunteers per School Region Dorm Central5,23479,239 15.1 Northeast3,24154,821 16.9 South2,94339,533 13.4 West2,52156,615 22.5 Religious Orientation Secular1,52921,284 13.9 Religious12,366208,690 16.9 NA44234 5.3 Catholic6,788155,652 22.9 Other religious5,57052,852 9.5 NA1,58121,704 13.7 aLess than 50,000 population. NA/NR: Data not available or not reported. NOTE: The totals reflect an adjustment for survey nonresponse. The details, however, have not been adjusted to reflect nonresponse, either to the full survey or to a specific characteristic. Accordingly, the details do not add to the totals and differ somewhat among tables. SOURCE: Unpublished data from the U.S. Department of Education. - ~ - --r r - - -' was extracurricular support in athletics, clubs, trips, newspapers, and li- braries. Just under 15 percent of voluneers provided management or advisory support, such as a citizen advisory group organized through the school; around 10 percent gave clerical support to the school, while a similar proportion worked at monitoring the cafeteria or playground. Less than 5 percent of volunteers assisted in the area of guidance support, such as career and college counseling or in health and drug awareness. At the elementary school level, just under 50 percent of the volunteers were involved with instructional support activities, followed by extracur- ricular and advisory support activities. In contrast, at the secondary school level, extracurricular support was the main task of volunteers, involving just under 50 percent of all volunteers, followed by advisory support func ~l~e numbers add to more than 100 percent because some volunteers contribute to more than one activity.
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20 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS TABLE 3-3 Volunteers in Public Schools, 1984-1985, by Activity All Schools Elementary Schools Secondary Schools Activity Number Percent Number Percent Number Percent Instructional support 473~476 43.5 448,217 44.8 29,259 15.4 Guidance support 50,383 4.6 36,765 3.6 13,617 8.3 Extracurricular support 301,749 27.7 234,844 23.5 66,856 40.8 Management/ advisory 147,540 13.6 109,234 10.9 38,306 23.4 Clerical support 102,975 9.5 88,082 8.8 14,886 9.1 Other support 94,831 8.7 83,106 8.3 11,726 7.2 NOTE: Percentages add to more than total because of multiple activities. SOURCE: Unpublished data from the U.S. Department of Education. lions (occupying about 25 percent of the volunteers), and instructional support, in which about 12 percent of volunteers participated. Instructional support was the main area in which volunteers assisted in the West, involving almost 60 percent of the volunteers, compared with about 40 percent elsewhere in the nation. The West used fewer volunteers in both extracurricular and clerical support, areas in which the rest of the country use large proportions of their volunteers. A major drawback of the current NCES effort to obtain information on the school volunteer universe is that it fails to provide any demographic data about the people who serve as volunteers. To provide some under- standing of this important area, we have used a study conducted by the Gallup organization in fall 1985 for the Independent Sector, a public non- profit coalition of corporate, foundation, and voluntary organizations es- tablished to assist the voluntary sector (see Independent Sector, 1986~. The information was obtained through personal interviews with a na- tional sample of 1,638 respondents 14 years of age and older. The report notes that major findings have a sampling tolerance of plus or minus 3 percent. According to Gallup, about 13 percent of the population 14 years of age and over reported some volunteer work in education during the previous year, about the same as in 1981. However, a fall to 8 percent was reported when the question was restricted to volunteer activity in the previous month. A majority of the volunteers had contributed 4 or less hours dur- ing a week. It should be noted that "volunteer work" in this survey
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE 21 included any and all activities involving education, whether public or private, fund raising, teaching Sunday school, or adult education. Although separate data are not available from the Gallup surveys on the characteristics of those contributing their time and efforts to educa- tion, it is informative to examine the characteristics of all volunteers, with a very broad assumption of general similarity (see Table 3-4~. In fall 1985, about 48 percent of the population 14 years old or over reported volunteer activity of all kinds over a 12-month period (about the same proportion as reported in a study conducted for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund in 1985~. The Gallup study showed that 50 percent of women had engaged in some volunteer activity, compared with 45 percent of men. The participation rate was relatively constant up to age 50, about 50 percent, at which point it fell to around 40 percent. Whites were much more likely to have volun- teered than blacks (49 percent compared with 38 percent), and the higher the educational attainment, the more likely the person was to have en- gaged in volunteer activity the percentage rose from 29 percent of those with a grade school education to a high of 65 percent for those with 4 or more years of college. The same relationship held for income those with family incomes of $30,000 or more were half again as likely to participate in volunteer activity as were those with family incomes below that level. These data also suggest a major change that took place during the post- World War II period in the functions undertaken by volunteers with re- spect to schools, that is, away from fund raising and school mother activi- ties to assisting teachers and schools in the fundamental task of educating children. There was an effort to profile volunteers in public schools in 1981-1982, when the National School Volunteer Program (NSVP) surveyed a national sample of school districts. Unfortunately, a history of this survey, includ- ing survey procedures, specific instructions, response rates, estimating methodology, tabulation specifications, and results is not available. However, an unpublished two-page summary of results provides the fol- lowing reported findings: · More than 4.4 million persons provided part- or full-time volunteer services to public schools over a 12-month period in 1981-1982. · Each volunteer contributed an average of about 3 hours per week. · Volunteers were found in 79 percent of public school districts. · Volunteer services were used more extensively at the elementary level; volunteers were found in 88 percent of the elementary schools and in 60 percent of the secondary schools. · Volunteers were parents, 33 percent; older citizens, 24 percent; stu- dents, 21 percent; business employees, 18 percent; and other, 4 per- cent.
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22 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS TABLE 3-4 All Volunteers in Past 12 Months, by Selected Characteristics, March 1981 and October 1985 (in percent) Characteristics March October 1981 1985 Total 52 48 Sex Male 47 45 Female 56 51 Age 14-17 53 52 18-24 54 43 25-34 NA 53 25-64 55 51 35~9 NA 54 50-64 NA 44 65 end order 37 38 65-74 NA 43 75 and older NA 26 Race White 54 49 Black and other races 41 38 Marital status Married 53 52 Single 58 39 Divorced/separated/widowed 42 39 Employment Full-time 55 49 Part-time 65 62 Not employed 45 44 Education Grade school 26 29 Some high school 31 38 Four-year high school 54 46 College, less than4 years 65 61 College, 4 or more years 75 65
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE TABLE 3-4 (Continued) Characteristics March October 1981 1985 Income Under $10,000 36 40 $10,000-$19,000 49 42 $20,000-$29,000 NA 44 $20,000-$39,000 64 52 $30,000-$39,000 NA 64 $40,000-$49,000 NA 67 More than $40,000 62 60 Region East 51 43 Midwest 54 52 South 48 44 West 57 54 NA: Not available. SOURCE: Independent Sector (1986: Table 1~. 23 A few words of caution are in order concerning these data. As noted earlier, details on the conduct of this study are lacking. Furthermore, unlike the NCES surveys that were directed to a sample of schools, this survey used a school-district-level sample to obtain data on the use of vol- unteers in schools in the district. This sampling procedure is considered less reliable than a school-based sample because school districts are often less likely to be able to respond with reasonably accurate data. Finally, we were informed that only about one-half of the sampled school districts responded, and nonrespondents were not followed up; it was thus as- sumed that the number and distribution of volunteers in school districts that did not reply were similar to those that did. If, as is usually the case, school districts that did reply were far more likely to have volunteers than those that did not respond, serious overestimates of the total number of volunteers may have resulted. We also note that the approach used more recently by NCES to mea- sure the universe of volunteers in schools results in a number far less than the 4.4 million reported in the NSVP study. It strains credibility to as- sume that the level of participation has fallen precipitously in the inter- vening period, particularly since anecdotal information and data from the
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24 VOLLINTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS committee's site visits, especially those in big cities, indicated growth rather than decline in the participation of volunteers in schools. For these reasons, we cast a doubtful eye on the 4.4 million figure, notwithstanding its wide use in the literature and folklore about the size of the volunteer effort in public schools. At the same time, we would note that those involved in the conduct of the NSVP survey did seek out com- petent professional advice, certainly as concerns the methodology of sample selection and sample size. ~ later effort to obtain statistics on school volunteers, as already noted, was undertaken by the NCES in connection with its 1985 Public School Survey. The NCES questionnaire, addressed to the school administrator, included a single item: "Do any unpaid volunteers provide services for this school?" A "yes" response resulted in a request to enter the numbers of such volunteers. A similar study, which also included a question on the use of volunteers, was carried out a year later among private schools. The public school survey in 1985 was conducted by mail for a national representative sample of 2,801 public schools and had a response rate of 84.6 percent. The sample size for the private school survey in 1986 was 1,387 private schools, with a response rate of just under 85 percent. No instructions or definitions of terms were provided; thus, the interpretation as to what constitutes an "unpaid volunteer" and the definition of "ser- vices" were left to the discretion of the respondent. The survey also had the drawback that a single total was not obtained; rather, administrators were asked to provide detail by the type of support provided. Because volunteers frequently engaged in more than one activity, there certainly is the possibility of some duplication. Despite these reservations, the results based on this survey that public schools were using or planned to use some 1,088,230 volunteers in the 198~1985 school year are likely much closer to reality than the 4.4 million estimate of the NSVP summary. Again, either in using or in musing about the significance of the data presented throughout this chapter, it is important both to note and to re- member the caveats that attach to them. First, a time series based on a consistent and iterative data collection system does not yet exist, although the two most recent studies by NCES give promise in this direction. Prior estimates bore little or no relationship to one another most notably, one that provided a measure of 4.4 million and the more recent one that esti- mated the total number of volunteers in public schools at 1.1 million. Second, none of the measures to date has provided the potential re- spondent with a written definition of a volunteer, one that can stand both scrutiny and the test of time and that can be responded to easily and quickly. Nor has the definition of volunteer been standardized such that the list of activities to be included or excluded is clearly delineated, with agreement by those representing the schools that the components are rea- sonable and acceptable and can be isolated or separated, as desired. Third,
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE 25 even assuming a standard definition of volunteer, the numbers them- selves are open to serious question. For example, during our visits to schools, we became aware that in some instances the counts of volunteers are derived by summing the names entered in the sign-in registers. In its brief exploration, the committee also became aware of instances in which the registers were incomplete, were not used at all, or contained dupli- cate, partial, or incomplete entries. And many schools, even given rela- tively good registers, do not bother to tally; rather, they choose a "typical" period a day or week and use the single tally as the guide for the entire school year. Based on the committee's observations, so-called knowl- edg~able estimates would appear to be a major source of the number of volunteers. As noted above, the committee also has reservations about the prospective nature of the questions now being used by NCES; we strongly urge the application of cognitive research in the development and testing of appropriate question wording, as well as the evaluation of results. Taken together, these concerns lead to an overriding need for agree- ment on periodic collection of relevant, important, and much needed na- tional information on the state of voluntary activity in schools. In this regard, we have in mind the regular collection of data both on the extent of voluntary activity and on the characteristics of those giving and receiv- ing the unpaid services, that is, data collected both from schools and from the population of volunteers. The NCES has made a good beginning in collecting limited data from schools; it should now consider how fre- quently such information is to be collected and, more important, how and how much to expand the detail to be collected. Similarly, NCES should review the need for information on the charac- teristics of school volunteers and determine the scope and frequency of what data to collect and how best to do so. The committee suggests that NCES consider a periodic supplement with rotating subject areas, which might be appended to the Current Population Survey conducted by the Bureau of the Census. Such an approach might provide an efficient, eco- nomical, and timely means of meeting needs for such data. It is clear that standards on how the data should be gathered and evaluated must be established, agreed upon, and carried out. Further- more, if individual states wish to collect such information and a number of the states already do-they should be encouraged to use agreed-upon definitions and question wordings in order to ensure conformity with the national data. Above all, the responsibility for providing national data should and must rest with the federal government, in this case with NCES, which is legislatively charged to provide the Congress with information on the state of education. In our judgment., such an assessment must include information on the use of volunteers in schools. The committee is not in a position to discuss who should be respon
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26 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS sible for ensuring conformity and coordination among those concerned with and interested in this data collection effort. Instead, we merely note with some emphasis the need for such action to be taken and suggest that the Secretary of Education provide the needed leadership in this area. THE STATE PICTURE Since education is primarily a state responsibility, it is not surprising that a number of states have active statewide volunteer programs. What is surprising, however, is that so many states seem to have so little in the way of legislation, leadership, or information about such programs. To obtain some information on the extent of states' roles, the committee sent a questionnaire to the states, extra-state jurisdictions, and the U.S. Depart- ment of Defense schools. Most of the state replies indicated great interest in community involvement in education; some even sent anecdotal infor- mation on the use of volunteers in their schools; a few suggested that they were about to move forward with both legislation and leadership; some referenced a variety of data collected, compiled, or otherwise composed at the local level; however, few had much of any substance to offer or dis- play as their own contributions. If the 40 replies received are representa- tive, it appears that local school districts and individual schools are far ahead of their state leadership. This is surprising in view of the strong support by the Council of Chief State School Officers for parent, business, and other community involve- ment in education, including school volunteer partnership development. For example, the published policy statement of the council, a nonprofit or- ganization comprised of the public officials responsible for education in each state, includes the following in regard to the use of school volunteers (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1988~: Volunteers provide vital assistance to educators and students in the reinforcement and enrichment of instruction and in the provision of related support services. Or- ganized volunteer programs promote the involvement of a wide spectrum of the population including parents, business and industry personnel, community organi- zation members, retirees and students. The Council encourages state education agencies to provide leadership in working with local schools and communities to promote the statewide development of part- nerships between professional educators and citizen volunteers to improve school effectiveness and student performance. The National Association of State Boards of Education, the policy-making bodies in most states, has also issued statements encouraging citizen in- volvement in schools. Nevertheless, only 14 of the states that replied to the committee's ques- tions had enacted legislation or issued state board of education policy statements that authorized and encouraged the use of volunteers in schools.
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE 27 An additional 27 indicated that they had "some kind" of program encour- aging school districts to use volunteers, despite a lack of specific legisla- tion or written policy, but they failed to provide any detail. Several noted that they do provide some financial or technical support but again did not provide any specific information. About half of the replies provided the name and address of a person at the state level who had been designated as responsible for school volunteer program coordination, and a small number provided a brief description of the responsibilities of the position. The state of Florida has what is probably the strongest legislative com- mitment, with annual categorical funding for matching grants to school districts to promote and extend school volunteer programs. This program has resulted, according to statistics issued by the state for the 1987-1988 school year, in volunteer programs in more than 2,000 schools with more than 140,000 volunteers. Another area of inquiry dealt with the availability of information at the state level on the extent of participation in public school voluntary activi- ties and the characteristics of participants. Of the states that responded, some 16 indicated an availability of some information, but less than half of these provided information sufficient to support their contention or to enable the committee to evaluate their data. For example, one state noted in passing that the count of volunteers was not restricted to those who gave services in schools but, rather, included anyone who gave any ser- vice to the cause of education, anywhere in the state. Accordingly, this state reported five times as many volunteers as another state with a popu- lation that was eight times larger. In another instance, one state reported 23,000 volunteers contributed 5 million hours of effort (or 200 hours per volunteer), while another state with almost six times as many volunteers (140,900) showed only 6 million hours spent in service (or 43 hours per volunteer). Only two states reported having undertaken any kind of evalu- ation study. A number of the states also attempted to quantify in dollar teas the value of the efforts of volunteers. As a first step, using sign-in records, observation, or assumed knowledge, the states developed an estimate of the average number of hours that volunteers devoted to the schools. They then ascribed an hourly dollar value to the aggregate number of hours, which produced an estimate of the overall dollar value. This approach also was followed in a number of the early data-gathering efforts: for example, the 1982 NSVP study estimated the value of volunteer services at "about $655 million." Even accepting the possible usefulness of such information, it is important to recognize that such figures are fraught with potential error which, on the one extreme, may reflect merely poor arith- metic or poor assumptions or, at the other extreme, may reflect the desire to make the state or the program look good. The point of these examples is not to suggest that one or another of the
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28 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS states or systems is attempting to mislead or misstate; rather, it is to dem- onstrate the extreme variability in what the different states report, if at all, and how they go about doing it. The point is to highlight the importance of and need for reliable and consistent information that can enlighten discussion about school volunteers and to emphasize that such info~a- tion is not available at the present time, either at the national level or the state or local level. Finally, these examples serve once again to remind the Congress and those in the executive branch charged with determining the state of education and providing guidance and support that they cannot depend currently on state-derived and state~eveloped infold Elation to assist and guide them in their tasks. Unfortunately, as we have seen, all too often the data fall far short of the task. EDUCATION PARTNERSHIPS In recent years, the roles of business and industry in the education process have changed markedly. Certainly, business and industry have always had and shown interest in the schools and, especially, in the type of graduates they produced. However, as long as the labor market supply was adequate or in excess, interest was not one of concern nor was it ex- pressed in any major form of contribution to the process. With the recog- nition that the entry pool of workers is shrinking and that new recruits are not only more difficult to find but also less well trained than might be desired, the focus of Attention by industry and business has shifted to one of overt participation in education, in hopes of meeting their needs. This changed participation led to what are now known as education partner- ships, which have taken many forms, ranging from the provision by busi- ness and industry of money and equipment to providing different types of expertise to assist in and further the education process. Since this form of activity seemed to be growing rapidly, during the 1987-1988 academic year NCES undertook to measure both the size of the phenomenon and the change since an earlier survey (1983-1984~. The most recent study showed that there were an estimated 140,800 education partnerships between public schools and outside sponsors as of the 1987-1988 academic year (National Center for Education Statistics, 1989~. The most frequent sponsors of education partnerships were busi- nesses and civic organizations or service clubs. Forty percent of all public schools participated in partnerships, and 24 percent of all public school students were reported directly in them. These schools averaged 4.6 part- nerships each. These numbers represent a substantial increase from the earlier survey in 1983-1984, when there were approximately 40,400 part- nerships in existence and an estimated 17 percent participation among public schools.
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SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS: A STATISTICAL PROFILE 29 Partnerships were particularly prevalent in the southeastern region of the country, where some 54 percent of public schools reported participa- tion in an education partnership; in other regions, participation ranged from 32 to 39 percent. Overall, just under one-half (46 percent) of the secondary schools had education partnerships, as compared with one- third of the elementary schools. School participation in partnerships was directly related to school size, ranging from 30 percent in small schools to 57 percent in large schools. Finally, poverty appeared to be a key deter- minant in the presence of a partnership program in a school, with the number rising for schools with larger poverty student bodies. The overriding support received from the partnerships was in the form of goods and services. About three-fourths of the schools reported this type of support, about one-fourth received money contributions, and one- third received a combination of goods, services, and money. The specific services that schools received consisted for the most part of the use of guest speakers from the partnership' the use of sponsors' facilities, and the provision of student incentive programs, such as student scholarships or awards. Of particular note was the finding that principals initiated most partnership arrangements in existence during the 1987-1988 school year. Some 52 percent of all schools were involved in partnerships initi- ated by a principal, compared with about 25 percent of schools involved because of the efforts of others, such as superintendents, coordinators, or teachers. RECOMMENDATIONS About 1 million people were expected to serve as volunteers in the nation's public school systems during the 1987-1988 school year, accord- ing to information collected by the NCES. Almost 47,300 schools, or about 60 percent of the nation's elementary and secondary schools, reported the use of volunteers, averaging almost 21 volunteers per school. These facts about volunteers provide a reasonable framework within which one can begin to understand the contributions and importance of volunteers to the educational process in the nation. In this situation, as in so many others, reliable, consistent, timely, and accurate information be- comes the guidepost to where the nation has been, where it is, and where it wishes to go. At present, there is a paucity of such information. It is the hope of the committee that the recent developments by NCES in obtaining information on volunteers is but a starting point and that our comments, caveats, and recommendations will serve to move the process forward so that policy makers and others concerned with this area can understand and take for granted that "the right thing is being measured and it is being measured right!"
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30 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS . The committee recommends that the National Center for Educa- tion Statistics be given responsibility for the collection, analysis, and publication of national data on the use of volunteers in schools. The committee recommends that the National Center for Educa- tion Statistics use its existing advisory committees to define both the data content to be collected and the appropriate frequency of collection. · The committee recommends that the National Center for Educa- tion Statistics consult with state and local school officials, with policy makers, and with parties concerned with the use of volun- teers in schools to ensure that full cooperation is forthcoming in effecting the collection of useful and usable information. · The committee further proposes that the U.S. Department of Edu- cation pronde leadership to the states and, given willingness on their part to participate, provide both technical and limited short- term financial assistance in initiating state-level periodic collec- tions of data on the use of volunteers in the public schools. REFERENCES Center for Education Statistics 1986 E.D. Tabs; The 1985 Public School Surrey, Early Tabulations. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education. Council of Chief State School Officers 1988 Council Policy Statements, 1988. Washington, D.C.: Council of Chief State School Officers. Hodgkinson, A., and M. Weitzman 1986a The Charitable Behavior of Americans, Findings from a National Surrey. Conducted by Yankelovich, Stally and White, Inc. Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector. 1986b Dimensions of the Independent Sector, A Statistical Profile. 2d Ed. Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector. Independent Sector 1986 American Volunteer 1985, An Independent Sector Summary Report. Washington, D.C.: Independent Sector. National Center for Education Statistics 1989 Education Partnerships in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Im- provement. CS-89-060.
Representative terms from entire chapter: