Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

Questions & Answers

What does it mean to say an organization and volunteer opportunity are "Approved" for Student Service Learning by Montgomery County Public Schools?

A graduation cap icon   next to an organization in the dasebase signifies MCPS SSL approval. Approved organizations have:

  • Registered with the Montgomery County Volunteer Center.
  • Sent a representative to an orientation where the MCPS SSL guidelines were explained.
  • Signed an Organization Responsibility and Assurance Document.
  • Tax exempt status from the IRS
  • Provided proof of general liability insurance coverage
  • Agreed to
    • Provide activities that are secular in nature.
    • Advise students of the need that will be addressed, overall expectations, and safety information.
    • Cover the SSL phases of preparation, action and reflection.
    • Supervise all activities in public places not private homes.
    • Not involve door- to- door neighborhood canvassing or telephone solicitation.
    • Evaluate student performance at regular intervals and share evaluation with student.
    • Maintain log and verify service on MCPS Form 560-51 Student Service Learning Activity Verification according to program timelines.
    • Award 1 SSL hour for every hour of service. (Maximum 8 hours within a 24 hour period).
    • Comply with all federal, state, and local laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of race, creed, sex, age, disability, religion, and/or national origin.
    • Prohibit verbal abuse, threats, physical violence or sexual harassment directed against others.
     

"MCPS SSL Approved" does NOT mean the following has occured:

  • Site visit by MCPS or Montgomery County Volunteer Center (MCVC) personnel;
  • Background check by MCPS or MCVC personnel.

Parent/Guardian may contact individual organizations to verify safety and background check information. It is the responsibility of parent/guardian to determine if an organization or service opportunity is appropriate and safe for their child.

Questions? Contact the SSL coordinator at the secondary  school or the MCPS SSL Office at 301-279-3454, or Kimberly_A_Bloch-Rincan@mcpsmd.org  

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How many SSL hours are required for MCPS students to graduate?

Beginning with the Class of 2011 students will complete seventy-five (75) service learning hours for graduation.

  • Students who enroll in MCPS for the first time in Grade 7 will complete 65 SSL hours before graduation.
  • Students who enroll in MCPS for the first time in Grade 8 will complete 55 SSL hours before graduation.
  • Students who enroll in MCPS for the first time in Grade 9 will complete 45 SSL hours before graduation.
  • Students who enroll in MCPS for the first time in Grade 10 will complete 35 SSL hours before graduation.
  • Students who enroll in MCPS for the first time in Grade 11 will complete 20 SSL hours before graduation.
  • Students who enroll in MCPS for the first time in Grade 12 will complete 10 SSL hours before graduation.

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How can MCPS students earn SSL hours?

  1. Full participation in service-learning aspects and successful completion of specific middle and high school courses.
  2. Participation in service-learning activities outside of the instructional school day promoted by school-sponsored clubs or organizations. The advisor verifies the SSL hours.
  3. Participation with MCPS SSL Approved  organizations and opportunities outside of the instructional school day; both the organization and the opportunity must be pre-approved.

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Is there a list of MCPS SSL approved organizations & MCPS SSL approved opportunities?

Yes, at the SSL homepage (www.mcpsssl.org) click on "SSL Community Activities". Organizations and Opportunities identified with a graduation cap icon    are MCPS SSL approved. Both the organization and the opportunity must be identified with approval.

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Can SSL hours be earned by camp counselors or activity assistants in denominational summer camps such as Vacation Bible School?

Yes, but only when the program is advertised to and attended by the non-denominational public. SSL hours are awarded only for secular curriculum and secular programming or recreation, such as sports, swimming, secular crafts, serving snacks, etc. SSL hours cannot be earned for any activities that involve prayer, liturgy, or the furtherance of religious tradition.

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Can SSL hours be earned by acting as a class/teacher aide in a congregationally-based program, including tutoring/teaching a foreign language?

Generally not, SSL hours are awarded only in the context of an educational setting whose purpose is secular, not religious or faith-based. Tutoring or classroom assistance does not qualify for SSL in congregational programs whose curriculum focuses on instruction (or language instruction) for the purpose of the furtherance of religious observance.

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Does providing childcare while parents attend meetings at the religious organization site qualify for SSL?

Yes, but only when the meetings address a community need and/or serve a population beyond the faith membership and do not support a for-profit business; eligible activities might include: teaching English classes, offering workshops open to the general public, blood drives, fitness classes, non-denominational music gatherings. SSL hours cannot be earned for meetings for congregation members only, and/or those that are focused on religion or worship.

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Does tutoring another in preparation for a religious service, or participation in a religious service qualify for SSL?

No, all SSL must address a recognized need beyond congregation membership in the greater community.

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Does providing clerical or administrative support to a religious organization qualify for SSL?

Yes, but only when the support addresses a recognized need in the greater community, e.g. managing a food pantry. SSL hours cannot be earned for assistance focused on membership mailings, updating congregation websites, or any other community-building aspect of a faith-based group that does not include the general public.

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Can SSL hours be earned while serving an independent community nonprofit as part of a faith-based group opportunity?

Yes, but only when a need in the greater community (beyond congregation membership) is addressed. Opportunities such as working in a soup kitchen, clothing center, housing or homeless program, or painting a senior housing facility, even when done with a religiously-affiliated group such as a congregational youth group, qualifies for SSL.

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Is there a difference between "volunteering" services to a religious or other nonprofit organization and opportunities that qualify for SSL?

Yes, Volunteering is not a Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) graduation requirement governed by State and local guidelines. Religious and other nonprofit organizations provide many opportunities for students to volunteer in the overall mission and programming of the organization; and these same organizations may provide service-learning opportunities which meet the guidelines set by the MSDE and Montgomery County Public Schools. Because State and county guidelines restrict SSL to secular opportunities, not all volunteer opportunities performed in the context of a faith community qualify as service-learning for MCPS students. MCPS students may choose to participate as volunteers in opportunities that promote the furtherance of religious, but SSL hours cannot be awarded for such involvement. The following are key to faith organizations awarding SSL opportunities:

  • Address and/or serve issues and populations beyond their religious community and general membership.
  • Serve the wider public (generally an underserved population: poor, elderly, infirmed, disabled, at-risk youth, etc)—not just members of a particular faith community or those who are adherents to their denomination. Be an activity that is open to the non-denominational public
  • If educational, be in a setting that has a secular curriculum and secular programming.

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How are student records towards the SSL diploma requirement maintained?

The SSL coordinator is available in every middle and high school to provide information about the SSL requirement, opportunities, timelines, and forms. MCPS Form 560-50, Individual Student Service Learning Request is reviewed and approved by the SSL coordinator in advance of service with an organization and opportunity that are not identified on the website as MCPS SSL Approved. Hours documented on verification forms (a maximum of 8 within a 24-hour period) are put into the student record. Hours "required", "completed", and "remaining" are reflected on the report card every 9 weeks from Grade 6 through high school. Students should keep copies of all SSL documents.

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What are the forms used to document SSL and where can they be found?

MCPS Form 560-51; Student Service Learning Activity Verification is required to document every SSL activity. MCPS Form 560-50; Individual Student Service Learning Request is required to be completed and approved by the SSL coordinator in advance of participation in any opportunity with an organization that is not identified with a graduation cap icon   in the database. SSL forms are available in any middle or high school and can be downloaded from the SSL home page. Students should keep copies of all SSL documents.

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Can SSL hours be earned in opportunities with nonprofit organizations that are not identified with a graduation cap icon   on the website www.mcpsssl.org?

Yes. Approval of MCPS Form 560-50; Individual Student Service Learning Request is required in advance of service with organizations and opportunities that are not identified with a graduation cap icon   at www.mcpsssl.org.

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Are there MCPS awards given to students with exceptional SSL records?

Yes. The Superintendent’s Student Service Learning Award is given to students who have documented in their service-learning record 75 hours of service by the first Friday in April of a middle school year. The Certificate of Meritorious Service is awarded to students who have service-learning records documenting 260 or more hours of service by the first Friday in April of their senior year.

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Is there an appeal process for SSL disputes?

Yes. Students may appeal decisions made by the school-based SSL coordinator and the SSL advisory committee to the school principal. Extenuating circumstances substantiating the appeal may be presented via a written communication from the student to the administrator.

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How do nonprofit community organizations get pre-approved for SSL?

The Montgomery County Volunteer Center (MCVC) and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) have information on all nonprofit, tax exempt organizations with opportunities that are identified with MCPS SSL Approval. Representatives from nonprofit, tax exempt organizations interested in becoming MCPS SSL Approved must register with the MCVC, attend an orientation, show proof of nonprofit, tax-exempt status, and liability insurance coverage. Nonprofit organizations must agree to the overall MCPS SSL guidelines and provide yearly updates of information to the MCVC. MCVC websites: http://www.montgomeryserves.org/ and SSL specific information can be found at:  http://www.montgomeryserves.org/volunteers/student-service-learning-ssl.  

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What are the roles and responsibilities of organizations identified as MCPS SSL approved?

Roles and responsibiliies of MCPS SSL approved organizations include: Attendance at orientations sponsored by the Montgomery County Volunteer Center (MCVC) and Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS); provision of written job descriptions for students that involve secular activities; compliance with preparation, action, and reflection phases of SSL; provision of certificate of general liability insurance; identification of supervisory staff; evaluation of student performance; focus on addressing recognized community needs; development of student responsibility; exploration of career paths with students; maintenance of accurate records of student service and verification of student service in a timely manner using required MCPS paperwork.

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How are service-learning hours awarded?

  1. SSL hours are awarded by adults who supervise the student and represent an approved organization. One's parent, guardian, or relative cannot award SSL hours to the student.
  2. Students receive one SSL hour for every hour of service outside of the instructional day.
  3. A maximum of 8 hours may be earned in a 24-hour period.

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Can SSL hours be earned for service to political organizations or individuals running for public office?

Yes. Any student interested in earning service-learning hours for involvement in activities that support political parties or individuals running for public office must first submit MCPS Form 560-50, Individual Student Service Learning Request (formerly Request for SSL Preapproval).  Once this request has been granted the student may provide service within the SSL guidelines in public places under the supervision of an adult, not a relative, representing the party or candidate.  Neither door-to-door neighborhood canvassing nor solicitation of financial donations are permitted for SSL. 

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Are there occassions where students may earn SSL hours with for-profit organizations?

Yes. For-profit organizations (such as banks, businesses, and corporations) that promote activities that address recognized community needs through activities such as coat drives, food collections, etc may award SSL hours to involved students who have secured an approved MCPS Form 560-50, Individual Student Service Learning Request in advance of the activity.

Students may earn SSL hours with for-profit assisted living facilities and nursing homes for direct services to the residents/patients/clients. An approved MCPS Form 560-50, Individual Student Service Learning Request is required in advance of the service.

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Are there activities that do not result in SSL hours?

Yes. Some activities for which students may not earn SSL hours include: Door-to-door distribution or neighborhood canvasing of any kind; service supervised by parent or relative; service without sponsorship of an approved nonprofit, tax exempt organization; service of a religious nature; service supervised by one younger than 18 years of age; service performed on private property or in a private residence/home; and service resulting in financial or other compensation.

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Can students participate in SSL activities with nonprofit organizations that are located outside of Montgomery County?

Yes. MCPS students may participate in SSL opportunities with a wide geographic range of nonprofit organizations. Opportunities with nonprofit organizations that are not identified with MCPS SSL Approval require prior approval of MCPS Form 560-50; Individual Student Service Learning Request.

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Is there a range of activities with nonprofit organizations that qualify for SSL?

Yes.

  • Nonprofit organizations provide opportunities that address need in the greater community indirectly. Clothing and food drives are examples of indirect service activities.
  • Nonprofit organizations provide opportunities that address needs in the greater community directly. Serving the elderly, working at soup kitchens are examples of direct service activities.
  • Nonprofit organizations provide opportunities that address needs in the greater community through advocacy activities. Letter writing promoting a particular viewpoint and participation in community events are examples of advocacy service activities.

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Can SSL hours be awarded for meal preparation at home for residents in a Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless shelter? 

Yes. This is the only exception to the guideline requiring SSL to occur in a public place. Students may arrange in advance to prepare bag lunches for delivery to a homeless shelter. SSL hours will be awarded based on the number of meals delivered to the shelter. See the breakdown below:

  • Deliver 20 lunches or hot meals 3 hours
  • Deliver 40 lunches or hot meals 4 hours
  • Deliver 60 lunches or hot meals 5 hours
  • Deliver 80 lunches or hot meals 6 hours
  • Deliver 100 lunches or hot meals 7 hours
  • Deliver 120 lunches or hot meals 8 hours
  • Deliver 140 lunches or hot meals 9 hours
  • Deliver 160 lunches or hot meals 10 hours

When more than 1 student prepares and delivers the meals the total number of meals is divided by the number of students involved i.e. 40 meals prepared by 2 students = each student is awarded 2 SSL hours.

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Does service with nonprofit organizations prior to enrollment in MCPS count toward the SSL requirement?

Yes.  At the time of MCPS secondary school enrollment new students may bring documentation of service from the summer after Grade 5.  A letter on official nonprofit organization letterhead signed by an executive of the organization identifying the number of hours contributed in secular activities under organization supervision in a public place will be accepted.  The official letter will be placed in the student's SSL folder and the documented hours entered into the student's record.

 

Can hours be earned by assisting classroom teachers with instructional tasks? 

 

Yes.  One SSL hour may be awarded for every hour of service spent in a school and outside of one's instructional day for assisting classroom teachers with tasks such as:  setting up and cleaning up labs and learning centers, reading to students, tutoring students in academic subjects (Math, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts etc.), updating bulletin board displays, copying, and collating worksheets, participating in content-based powerpoint presentations etc.  Classroom teachers may not award SSL hours for tasks that involve student access to the work of other students.  Activities that would support the instructional program of a teacher but potentially jeopardize the confidentiality of another student such as checking or correcting student papers (including homework, projects, tests, etc.), computer use that would reveal student records (confidential, personal, academic, attendance etc.), or entering grades in student records.  Overall any activity that would reveal to one student the achievement record of another student is not appropriate for SSL. 

 

Can students earn SSL hours for supporting MCPS athletics? 

 

 

Yes.  Beginning with the 2013-2014 school year the following roles associated with MCPS Athletics apply:

High School:  Outside of one's instructional day a maximum of 30 hours per student per sport-season may be awarded by staff serving as MCPS coaches to students who serve as managers or statisticians for team sports.  SSL hours are awarded under adult supervision for tasks such as setting up practice, tracking equipment inventory, and keeping statistical data. 

Middle School:  Outside of one's instructional day a maximum of 15 hours per student per sport-season may be awarded by staff serving as MCPS coaches to students who serve as managers or statisticians for team sports.  SSL hours are awarded under adult supervision for tasks such as setting up practice, tracking equipment inventory, and keeping statistical data.

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