Presentation on theme: "Ontario`s Mandated High School Community Service Program: Assessing Civic Engagement After Four Years S. D. Brown, S.M. Pancer, P. Padanyi, M. Baetz, J."— Presentation transcript:
Ontario`s Mandated High School Community Service Program: Assessing Civic Engagement After Four Years S. D. Brown, S.M. Pancer, P. Padanyi, M. Baetz, J. Goyder, M. Drysdale & A. Henderson Introduction In 1999, the Ontario government introduced a requirement that high school students complete 40 hours of community service before graduating. Part of the government’s reason for doing so was to promote greater civic engagement among young adults. With the program now approaching its tenth year, it is appropriate to ask how successfully it is meeting its objectives. In the present investigation, two main questions are addressed: 1.Does mandating the service in high school have any negative effects on attitudes and volunteering several years later? 2.Does the program promote greater civic engagement among its key target population: those who probably would not have been introduced to the voluntary sector without the requirement? Participants 820 4 th year university students at Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Guelph 71.4% female, 29.6% male Mean age: 22.6 years Range of ages: 21-26 Method Participants completed a 25-minute online survey dealing with their high school community service experience and with their recent community service activities. The survey also gathered information about the social and family background of the students. Since this 4 th year class was the Ontario “double cohort”, about half (50.2%) of the students had completed community service in high school as a requirement for graduation while the other half (49.8%) had not. Since the two cohorts were comparable in most other respects, the non-mandated cohort can serve as a quasi- experimental control group for assessing the effects of mandating community service. Independent Measures Was the student compelled to complete a community service requirement in high school? If so, was this his/her first introduction to volunteering? Characteristics of high school community service experience Number of volunteer sectors worked (6 sectors offered) Duration of longest placement in any sector Enjoyment of experience (an 8-item scale) at longest placement Social Background factors: gender, religious attendance, high school activity level, urban-rural residence, mother’s and father’s community service activity levels Dependent Measures Index of community service activity in last 12 months (6 volunteer sectors) Level of university charitable activity in last 12 months Current attitude toward volunteering (3-item scale) Comparing HS Volunteering Experiences of Mandated and Non-Mandated Students Those mandated to volunteer in high school did so at a greater rate than those who did not have a requirement (94% vs 77%). Hence the mandated program exposed a greater proportion of the high school cohort to the voluntary sector. The community service experiences were similar in comparing the two cohorts, but not identical. There were no differences in the average number of volunteer sectors sampled by the cohorts or in the likelihood of at least a year- long commitment at a placement. However, the average ``enjoyment`` index score in describing the placement was somewhat but statistically higher for the non-mandated cohort. Results Current Volunteering: Comparing Mandated, Non-mandated and No service Groups from High School Do those who volunteered in high school exhibit higher levels of civic engagement four years after high school graduation than those who did no high school community service. The bar graph indicates that the ``no service`` group was significantly below both the mandated and non-mandated volunteers for all four of the civic engagement measures. The mandated group was not significantly different from the non-mandated group on these measures. Variables Unstandardized B Coefficients Std. Error Statistical Significance Constant-.13.40NS Background Factors Sex.18.21NS Politics discussed in family-.76.32.02 Religious attendance2.18.31.001 HS Activity level.83.25.001 Urban-Rural residence.21.25NS Mother`s CS activity1.50.56.01 Father`s CS Activity1.34.56.02 HS Com Service Characteristics Breadth of HS volunteering.32.07.001 Duration of HS volunteering-.22.15.04 Enjoyment of HS volunteering2.23.49.001 Mandated HS volunteering or not-.08.18NS R2R2.28.001 Predicting Current Volunteering Levels Regressing Current Volunteering on Social Background and HS Community Service Characteristics Because differences in the social backgrounds of the cohorts may explain the differences, a multiple regression was conducted with controls for those background factors. The analysis indicates that breadth of high school service (number of sectors in which the student volunteered) and the degree of ``enjoyment`` it engendered are significant predictors of subsequent volunteering. However, the fact that service was mandated is not a significant predictor. Current Volunteering: Comparing the Mandated Service Group with other Service groups and a ``No Service`` group The main target population for mandated community service programs are students who would not otherwise be inclined to volunteer their time. To see the effects of the program on this target population, we divided the mandated group into those who had volunteered prior to their mandated community service (``mandated and volunteered`` group) and those for whom the mandated service was their first experience with the voluntary sector (``mandated only`` group). The bar graph compares subsequent civic involvements across the four groups. It suggests that for the three behavioural measures of involvement, the ``mandated only`` group more closely resembles the ``no service`` group than the other groups that volunteered in high school. Only for the attitudinal measure regarding volunteering does is the ``mandated only`` group more like the other two volunteering groups. Variables Unstandardized B Coefficients Std. Error Statistical Significance Constant.23.47NS Background Factors Sex.20.21NS Politics discussed in family-.77.31.02 Religious attendance2.20.31.001 HS Activity level.84.25.001 Urban-Rural residence.21.25NS Mother`s CS activity1.48.56.01 Father`s CS Activity1.31.57.02 HS Com Service Characteristics Breadth of HS volunteering.34.07.001 Duration of HS volunteering-.11.13NS Enjoyment of HS volunteering1.97.52.001 Intro to CS by HS Mandated Requirement-.71.47NS Mandated but Vol. In HS Before-.56.42NS Not Mandated & Volunteered in HS-.60.43NS R2R2.28.001 Predicting Current Volunteering Levels Regressing Current Volunteering on Social Background and HS Community Service Characteristics and Service Groups A multiple regression simultaneously controls for the effects of background characteristics as well as the various community service characteristics. The regression suggests that volunteering by itself – whether because it was mandated or freely chosen – does not significantly improve our ability to predict subsequent community service activity relative to those who did not volunteer in high school. Among high school community service characteristics, only ``breadth`` of service and ``enjoyment`` of service matter. Conclusions Mandated service experiences in high school are similar to voluntary service experiences in high school. It appears that mandating community service does not ``poison the well`` for future volunteering. Mandated and Non-mandated groups exhibit similar levels of civic engagement and both exhibit somewhat greater levels of civic involvement than those who did no community service in high school. Students who volunteered more reluctantly in high school – that is, those forced into it by the mandated requirement – were not more likely to volunteer subsequently than those who did no high school service at all. That is, the argument that forcing students into the voluntary sector will pay dividends down the road is not supported by these data. More important than the initial stimulus for volunteering are how much the student enjoyed the experience and how broadly he or she sampled the voluntary sector. Hence, this would seem to argue for well- structured programs that assist high school students to find suitable and satisfying placements. Surprisingly, duration of high school commitment did not emerge as a significant predictor of subsequent involvement. Limitations The test population here is a 4 th year university cohort. Participants are just completing a period at university in which significant socialization effects can be expected. Hence, after controls, the absence of differences in subsequent civic engagement between those who volunteered in high school and those who did not may be the result of these intervening socialization processes.