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2 Development of Organized School Volunteerism in the United States Although voluntary participation in many different areas of effort is woven throughout American history as a nation, school volunteerism as an organized effort to bring parents and other citizens into schools as unpaid aides is relatively recent. The story of this effort began in the 1950s, when a group of New York City civic activitists became concerned about the educational needs of children who entered school with the dis- advantages of poverty, physical handicaps, or the inability to speak Eng- lish. When they began planning for an organized volunteer program, the New York City group knew of at least six other school districts in the country that used volunteers. They were also aware of work being done in England, where in London schools alone 2,500 volunteers were assist- ing in guidance and health services under a carefully organized plan. They also knew that principals in some elementary schools in New York City welcomed volunteers usually parents or interested neighbors-on an informal basis, with no recruiting or training involved. What the New York City citizens had in mind was a more structured and accountable volunteer activity that would recruit volunteers, provide training, and consult teachers about whether they wished to have volun- teers in their classrooms. In 1956, the Public Education Association (PEA), a citizen advocacy group that had promoted education in New York City for half a century, led an organized school volunteer program with 20 volunteers who offered their services on a regular weekly basis at P.S. 191 in Manhattan to tutor children in reading. From the beginning, the pro- gram emphasized that the volunteers would be trained. The program flourished in the pilot school, and requests for volunteers 6
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ORGANIZED SCHOOL VOLUNTEERISM IN THE U.S. 7 came to the PEA from other schools. In 1959, the Ford Foundation granted $80,000 to the PEA to expand the school volunteer program. It was un- derstood that the grant would also be used to improve recruitment, train- ing, and utilization of volunteers and that over the 3-year period of the grant the New York City Board of Education would pick up an increasing share of the cost of the program. The PEA also received financial support for its volunteer initiative from the New York Fund for Children, the Eda K. Loeb Foundation, and the Mary W. Harriman Fund. As word of the New York City program spread, the PEA received more requests than it could handle for advice and help with setting up similar programs in other school districts around the country. In 1964, it asked for and received another 3-year grant from the Ford Foundation to aeate a National School Volunteer Program under the PEA umbrella. Under the grant, the PEA agreed to assist citizen groups in about 20 large cities to train school volunteers, using the methods that had been successful in New York City. The PEA added to its staff in order to provide consultant services and conduct workshops in the designated cit- ies and to prepare training materials. Ultimately, 17 large cities received assistance from the PEA in creating or expanding school volunteer pro- grams: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. Buoyed by the success of the National School Volunteer Program, a group of advocates approached the Ford Foundation in 1968 to ask for support for a School Volunteer Program that could become self-sustain- ing. Ford responded with a 1-year grant for the aeation of an independ- ent National School Volunteer Program (NSVP). The new NSVP, now in- corporated as the National School Volunteer Program, Inc., established an office in New York City. After the expiration of the Ford Foundation grant in 1969, the NSVP closed its national office, and for a number of years it operated from the school district of the person then serving as president. The organization continued to convene national meetings, provide technical assistance to new programs, and facilitate the exchange of information between volun- teer programs in school districts around the country. In 1975, a planning grant from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation to the National School Volunteer Program, Inc., enabled it to make plans for a new national office. The following year, 1976, with additional grants from the Clark Foundation, NSVP opened a national office with an executive director and a small staff in Alexandria, Virginia. There were other developments in school volunteerism in this period. In 1970, the Office of Education, then part of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, Heated an Office of Volunteers in Educa
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8 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS tion in the Bureau of Education Professions [Development. The creation of this volunteer office was sparked in part by the surprising national re- sponse to a speech by Commissioner of Education James Allen describing a concept called "Right to Read," which was to have a strong volunteer component. A corps of energetic supporters of Right to Read, many of them volunteers, staffed the office in its first months, helping to answer the large volume of mail generated by Allen's proposal. The Office of Volunteers in Education began with modest funding of $100,000 from three vocational education programs; the office eventually received almost $1 million from several other federal education programs. During its 2-year life, it supported programs to train school volunteer co- ordinators at the Washington Technical Institute in the District of Colum- bia and in Des Moines, Iowa, and convened a number of conferences. In addition, the office encouraged the states to set up contacts for volunteer programs. However, this office was only a very small operation, and after 2 years it was eliminated during a reorganization of the Office of Education. That same year, 1972, the Institute for Development of Educational Ac- tivities, Inc. (IDEA), an affiliate of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation, convened a national seminar in Melbourne, Florida, to ascertain the status of volunteers in the matter of teaching and learning as well as to deter- mine the roadblocks to their expanded use. A report on the seminar characterized school volunteerism as a "proliferating activity" and stressed that the volunteer movement in education is a true grass-roots phenome- non at the time (Institute for Development of Educational Activities, Inc., [IDEA], 1972). Most of the people attending the seminar were coordinators of local school volunteer programs; they came from San Francisco, California; Winnetka, Illinois; Boston, Massachusetts; New Orleans, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California; Englewood, New Jersey; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Kansas City, Missouri; Houston, Texas; Worcester, Massachusetts; and the state of New Hampshire. Also present were the vice-president for education of the National Association of Manufacturers and representatives of several community colleges, the American Red Cross, and the National Center for Voluntary Action in Washington, D.C. Seminar attendees confined themselves to discussing volunteers as di- rect participants in the education process. The report (IDEA, 1972) on the seminar gives considerable attention to volunteers as a way of reducing the ratio of students to adults in classrooms and a way of giving students individual, one-to-one attention. In providing services such as tutoring to students in need of help, volunteers might really be "teaching," the report noted, though conference attendees acknowledged that the word "rein- forcing" is more palatable to professional educators.
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ORGANIZED SCHOOL VOLUNTEERISM IN THE U.S. 9 The conferees noted that volunteer programs sometimes started as the idea of a superintendent or school board member or as a small effort put together by a teacher or principal; more often, dedicated groups have to demonstrate and justify the program before they can get the institutional interest and backing. Major roadblocks to school volunteer programs were school administrators, shy and insecure teachers, and teacher un- ions. The report laid a great deal of the blame and responsibility for teachers' fear of volunteers at the door of teacher-training institutions, which do not enlighten the novice teacher that anyone else in the commu nity could possibly be of any help. Participants in the 1972 seminar cited the need for: an independent national organization In order to give cohesiveness to the multih~- dinous programs proliferating at the local level.... We need to have some kind of dissemination of information so that others will know what is going on, where things are happening, where new developments are taking place, and how a group of volunteers can improve their own program.... The volunteer effort needs an agency for dissemination, technical assistance, some kind of regular moral and, possibly, financial support. This does not mean government support, as the pro- gram will be far stronger if it is nongovernmental in nature. During the 1970s and continuing in the 198Os, school volunteer pro- grams sprang up in many towns and cities around the country, often spontaneously, sparked by interest and enthusiasm on the part of an indi- vidual parent, teacher, or school principal. The national organization provided support to the emerging programs in the form of conferences, newsletters, and training manuals and other materials. In some communities, school desegregation spurred the volunteer move- ment. During the 1970s and continuing into the 1980s, school systems, first in the South and then in the North, faced new problems of pupil and teacher assignment, busing, and curriculum improvement as the result of voluntary or court-ordered desegregation plans. In some cities, parents and other volunteers rallied to prove the worth of public schools by offer- ing their services in a variety of roles, including classroom support and public relations. The growing community schools movement was also a stimulus to volunteerism. "Community education," generally defined as opening schools to a variety of community activities, encouraged community members to think of themselves as participants in the education process, and many became volunteers in the schools. But nothing focused attention on education more than a series of criti- cal reports that began in 1983 with publication of the U.S. Department of Education's A Nation at Risk, which noted many deficiencies in the educa- tion children were receiving in the United States. The effect of this and a series of other critiques was two-way: citizens became more interested in
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10 VOLUNTEERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS what schools were doing, and educators looked for ways to bring allies into the schools, to help with services and to bolster community support. In 1988, NSVP reported that school volunteer programs were active in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories. One of the major initiatives to emerge from the heightened public aware- ness of education and education-related problems in the 1980s was a vari- ety of cooperative arrangements between schools and businesses or other community agencies, often in the form of partnerships or school adop- tions, aimed at improving the quality of education and better preparing students to compete as workers in a world economy. In 1988, NSVP merged with the National Symposium on Partnerships in Education to form the National Association of Partners in Education. Two other organizations have made major contributions to volunteer- ism in schools. One is the national PTA, founded in 1897 as the National Congress of Mothers, with the threefold purpose of educating and involv- ing parents in better rearing their own children, providing needed serv- ices to all children, and strengthening support for public education. Cur- rently, with 6.5 million members, the national PTA calls itself the largest voluntary organization in the United States. Its members, predominantly but not exclusively parents of school children, are committed to improv- ing the lives and education of all children, not just their own, through service and advocacy. In many schools, the local PTA is the major source of school volunteers. PTAs also support schools through fund raising and contribution of equipment and facilities. Another organization that has played a significant role in school volun- teerism is the Junior League, a national organization of women committed to community service. Local leagues are grouped in an umbrella Associa- tion of Junior Leagues headquartered in New York City. Since its incep- tion in 1921, the league has been active in education. Junior leaguers work as volunteers in many schools, and the league has initiated and financially supported many volunteer activities. A major contribution of the league has been the development of education curricula specifically designed to use volunteers in a variety of school activities, including en- richment for gifted and talented children, aid in improving reading and other skills for disadvantaged youngsters, and supplementary programs in science, mathematics, and reading. Local junior leagues have autonomy to develop volunteer activities re- sponsive to the needs of their local schools. The Association of Junior Leagues provides technical support and assistance to local leagues and has developed national programs that use volunteers to address a range of education-related problems, including drug abuse and teenage preg- nancy. This brief account of the development of organized school volunteer
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ORGANIZED SCHOOL VOLUNTEERISM IN THE U.S. 11 ism in the United States is necessarily incomplete. It does not include the varied experiences of school districts around the country that were devel- oping volunteer programs at the time the events recorded here occurred. It does not attempt to relate the school volunteer movement to other his- torical developments) such as the enactment of federal education legisla- tion, or increased acceptance by teacher unions of paid auxiliary aides in classrooms. Nor does it attempt to look at school volunteerism in the context of other major developments, such as the pressures on educators in recent years to welcome community involvement in schools as a means of school improvement or public relations. The varied experiences of school districts around the country developing volunteer programs at the time the events recorded here were occurring should also be part of any history of the use of volunteers in schools. Some of these experiences are described in the chapter on exemplary volunteer programs, but these also are only part of the story. This brief synopsis is intended to provide some context for understanding the development of organized school volun- teers programs in the United States; the comprehensive history is yet to be written. REFERENCE Institute for Development of Education Activities, Inc. (IDEA) 1972 Expanding Volunteers in Teching and Learning Programs. Dayton, Ohio: Institute for Development of Educational Activities, Inc.
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