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Elderly Lauded as School Volunteers

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A program that brings senior-citizen volunteers into 36 Washington, D.C., public schools has had a positive effect on the academic and social development of students, according to teachers who have participated in the program.

About 80 percent of the teachers surveyed by the National School Volunteer Program said they thought that volunteers improved the academic growth of students. About 94 percent of the teachers said the volunteers improved the social development of their students.

In the survey, which evaluated the volunteer program for the 1981-82 school year, nearly two-thirds of the teachers indicated they had more time to spend with individual students and small groups of students, despite the fact that the presence of volunteers required them to spend more time planning classroom activities.

Fewer than 10 percent of the teachers said that the volunteers posed "somewhat of a problem" in carrying out curriculum ac-tivities, communicating with them, and being responsive to students; about 24 percent of the teachers said that the presence of the volunteer in the classroom added to the time it took them to plan activities.

About 48 percent of the teachers surveyed gave the volunteers an overall rating of "excellent"; 42 percent gave a rating of "good"; 6 percent said the volunteers were "fair"; and 2 percent cited poor performance by volunteers.

The program also benefited the volunteers, the survey indicates.

About 72 percent of the senior citizens said their feelings of self-worth "improved" or were "greatly improved" as a result of the volunteer activity, and 33 percent said their psychological health had improved. Fifty-seven percent of the volunteers felt that their attitude toward schools was "improved" or "greatly improved" as a result of working in the schools.

The volunteers were primarily women between the ages of 55 and 75. About 54 percent had had no previous experience in volunteer work; slightly over half the volunteers had not attended college.

About 84 percent of the senior citizens and roughly the same number of teachers said they would be interested in participating in the program again.--sr

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