National Standards

K-12 Service-Learning Standards
for Quality Practice

These standards and indicators were vetted through a series of “reactor panels” convened nationwide by the National Youth Leadership Council and RMC Research Corporation. The panels were composed of young people, teachers, school and district administrators, community members, staff from community-based organizations, policy-makers, and others interested in service-learning. The process was much like content-setting standards in other fields. Each panel considered the work of the two before them, revising the standards and indicators to ensure that they included the strongest aspects of quality, and to make the wording clearer, measurable, and actionable. For more information, visit

Meaningful Service

Service-learning actively engages participants in meaningful and personally relevant service activities.


1. Service-learning experiences are appropriate to participant ages and developmental abilities.

2. Service-learning addresses issues that are personally relevant to the participants.

3. Service-learning provides participants with interesting and engaging service activities.

4. Service-learning encourages participants to understand their service experiences in the context of the underlying societal issues being addressed.

5. Service-learning leads to attainable and visible outcomes that are valued by those being served.


Link to Curriculum

Service-learning is intentionally used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.


1. Service-learning has clearly articulated learning goals.

2. Service-learning is aligned with the academic and/or programmatic curriculum.

3. Service-learning helps participants learn how to transfer knowledge and skills from one setting to another.

4. Service-learning that takes place in schools is formally recognized in school board policies and student records.

Service-learning is a philosophy, pedagogy, and model for community development that is used as an instructional strategy to meet learning goals and/or content standards.


Service-learning incorporates multiple challenging reflection activities that are ongoing and that prompt deep thinking and analysis about oneself and one’s relationship to society.


1. Service-learning reflection includes a variety of verbal, written, artistic, and nonverbal activities to demonstrate understanding and changes in participants’ knowledge, skills, and/or attitudes.

2. Service-learning reflection occurs before, during, and after the service experience.

3. Service-learning reflection prompts participants to think deeply about complex community problems and alternative solutions.

4. Service-learning reflection encourages participants to examine their preconceptions and assumptions in order to explore and understand their roles and responsibilities as citizens.

5. Service-learning reflection encourages participants to examine a variety of social and civic issues related to their service-learning experience so that participants understand connections to public policy and civic life.


Service-learning promotes understanding of diversity and mutual respect

among all participants.


1. Service-learning helps participants identify and analyze different points of view to gain understanding of multiple perspectives.

2. Service-learning helps participants develop interpersonal skills in conflict resolution and group decision-making.

3. Service-learning helps participants actively seek to understand and value the diverse backgrounds and perspectives of those offering and receiving service.

4. Service-learning encourages participants to recognize and overcome stereotypes.


Youth Voice

Service-learning provides youth with a strong voice in planning, implementing, and evaluating service-learning experiences with guidance from adults.


1. Service-learning engages youth in generating ideas during the planning, implementation, and evaluation processes.

2. Service-learning involves youth in the decision-making process throughout the service-learning experiences.

3. Service-learning involves youth and adults in creating an environment that supports trust and open expression of ideas.

4. Service-learning promotes acquisition of knowledge and skills to enhance youth leadership and decision-making.

5. Service-learning involves youth in evaluating the quality and effectiveness of the service-learning experience.


Service-learning partnerships are collaborative, mutually beneficial, and address community needs.


1. Service-learning involves a variety of partners, including youth, educators, families, community members, community-based organizations, and/or businesses.

2. Service-learning partnerships are characterized by frequent and regular communication to keep all partners well-informed about activities and progress.

3. Service-learning partners collaborate to establish a shared vision and set common goals to address community needs.

4. Service-learning partners collaboratively develop and implement action plans to meet specified goals.

5. Service-learning partners share knowledge and understanding of school and community assets and needs, and view each other as valued resources.

Progress Monitoring

Service-learning engages participants in an ongoing process to assess the quality of implementation and progress toward meeting specified goals, and uses results for improvement and sustainability.


1. Service-learning participants collect evidence of progress toward meeting specific service goals and learning outcomes from multiple sources throughout the service-learning experience.

2. Service-learning participants collect evidence of the quality of service-learning implementation from multiple sources throughout the service-learning experience.

3. Service-learning participants use evidence to improve service-learning experiences.

4. Service-learning participants communicate evidence of progress toward goals and outcomes with the broader community, including policy-makers and education leaders, to deepen service-learning understanding and ensure that high quality practices are sustained.

Duration and Intensity

Service-learning has sufficient duration and intensity to address community needs and meet specified outcomes.


1. Service-learning experiences include the processes of investigating community needs, preparing for service, action, reflection, demonstration of learning and impacts, and celebration.

2. Service-learning is conducted during concentrated blocks of time across a period of several weeks or months.

3. Service-learning experiences provide enough time to address identified community needs and achieve learning outcomes.