Overall, there is evidence that mentoring can be effective. An often-cited study of 959 youth who applied to the BBBS program reported that the youths who participated were less likely to start using drugs or alcohol or to hit someone, and more likely to improve school performance, and peer and family relationships (Tierney, Grossman, & Resch, 1995). In a small sample BBBS study, 12 boys with a mentor improved academic achievement scores, when compared to 13 boys who were not yet paired with a mentor (Thompson & Kelly-Vance, 2001). When BBBS youth participated in a school-mentoring program, substantial gains were reported in grades, attendance, attitudes, and relationships with adults and peers (Curtis & Hanson-Schwoebel, 1999). In another study, youth improved problem behaviors compared to those on a wait-list (Keating, Tomishima, Foster, & Alessandri, 2002).
An evaluation of Across Ages, a substance abuse prevention project that pairs youth with adults over 55, reported an improvement in attitudes toward school, the future, and elders (Taylor, Lo Scuito, Fox, Hilbert, & Sonkowsky, 1999). Another program, Project SOAR, combined mentoring and academic assistance and improved math and reading grades. Even though the mentors served as tutors, youth who were successful reported forming friendships with their mentors (http://cals.arizona.edu/impacts/2003/5_6.html). TeamWorks, a group-mentoring program, also reported improvement in attitudes and school attendance (Van Patton, 1997). In a cohort comparison of sixth-graders, youth in the I Have a Dream (IHAD) program, which provides students with long-term financial, academic, and social support from sponsors, reported graduation rates that were doubled those of youth not in the program (Kahne & Bailey, 1999).
Although these studies indicate that mentoring can be effective, other studies show mixed or no effects (Roberts, Liabo, Lucas, DuBois, & Sheldon, 2004). In a BBBS study that compared participants with demographically matched control youth, no effects of mentoring were found on emotional or behavioral adjustment after one year (DuBois, Neville, Parra, & Pugh-Lilly, 2002). Two other BBBS programs also reported no mentoring effects (Abbott, Meredith, Self-Kelly, & Davis, 1997; Royse, 1998). Jackson (2002) found positive effects on parent, but not teacher reports. Even when positive effects are found, they may be insufficient to make a substantial difference. Project RAISE helped students in seven middle schools increase attendance and their grades, but not sufficiently to match typical students in the same district. In addition, there were no effects on standardized test scores or promotion rates (McPartland & Nettles, 1991).
These studies raise the question of how the effectiveness of mentoring can be increased. Several studies suggest some possibilities.
Reprinted with the permission of TeachSafeSchools.org.
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