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Does School-Based Mentoring Work?

Mentoring children in schools has become increasingly popular among educators, policy makers, and the public during the decade or two. The idea is that school-based mentoring programs benefit kids by improving academic and behavioral outcomes and providing good, supportive relationships with adults who are not members of a child's family.

But how well does mentoring achieve its goals? Does it have a "big impact and proven results," as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America says?

The Society for Research in Child Development reports that "school-based mentoring programs as currently constituted appear to have significant, but relatively small, effects on several outcomes related to school success." Mentoring may have less impact on grades and academic success than hoped for, but does bolster "behaviors and beliefs that keep students engaged in school and that are likely to foster learning."

This meta-analysis, by Marc Wheeler, Thomas E. Keller, and David L. DuBois, evaluated three large-scale random-assignment studies of the effects of school-based mentoring programs by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, Communities in Schools of San Antonio, and the U.S. Department of Education's Student Mentoring Program. The SRCD paper is analyzed in greater depth in a new Ed Week article.

In short, the results suggest that mentoring yields benefits, but also that more study is needed of what kinds of mentoring interventions are most successful in achieving specific aims and that mentoring programs may need to reconsider their approaches to improving academic achievement.

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