Making Sense of Mixed Findings About Mentoring

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Review of Three Recent Randomized Trials of School-Based Mentoring: Making Sense of Mixed Findings 

Society for Research in Child Development

This report, the results of which were discussed at a MENTOR news conference in Washington on Thursday, seeks to clarify the findings of a recent analysis of three school-based mentoring programs.    

Data collected through the evaluation of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA) affiliates, Communities in Schools of San Antonio, Texas, and grant recipients of the U.S. Department of Education’s Student Mentoring Program have led to contradictory policy decisions. Numbers collected from BBBSA led that organization to create a new mentoring pilot program, while the findings of the same report were cited as a reason to eliminate the Student Mentoring Program in the federal budget.

The authors of this most recent study suggest that differences in programming and methods used for statistical analyses resulted in mixed information. Data acquired from BBBSA suggested that youth who were paired with “Bigs” (mentors) experienced an improvement in both their academic performance and their attitudes, whereas results from the Department of Education’s program seemed to show that school-based mentoring had little social or scholarly impact on youth. The analysis of the CIS-SA program fell in between the two extremes.

School-based programs represent one in four of the more than 4,000 programs listed in a national mentoring database, according to the study. Although all share the structure of a school environment, the makeup and support systems within each organization varies. In their own evaluation of the earlier studies, the authors describe the differences inherent in program design and data collection techniques used when assessing the success of the organizations. They conclude that school-based mentoring programs are most effective in reducing certain social problems, such as truancy and “school-related misconduct,” and increasing student engagement in the classroom, but may have a lesser impact on scholastic achievement.

Free, 27 pages.