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School-Based Mentoring Programs: Using Volunteers to Improve the Academic Outcomes of Underserved Students

NCJ Number
Amanda Bayer; Jean Baldwin Grossman; David L. DuBois
Date Published
August 2013
46 pages
Based on a randomized control trial that involved just over 1,000 students from 71 schools across the country, this study examined the academic benefits of school-based mentoring offered by Big Brothers, Big Sisters of America (BBBSA), with attention to how schools can use volunteers in this effort.
The study found that the academic impact of mentoring relationships depended less on the mentor's academic knowledge and teaching skills than on the mentor's ability to cultivate a supportive, caring, and motivating influence on the student. The study found that the development of a close relationship between mentors and their students led to better academic outcomes for students. In contrast, students who participated in the program but did not have a close relationship with their mentors had no improvement in academic outcomes compared to the control groups. This pattern held for mentoring relationships of various duration. In addition, there was no evidence that mentoring programs with an academic focus produced better academic outcomes than mentoring that involved only relationship-building. Another finding indicated that programs structured with weekly meeting and with opportunities for mentoring pairs to interact outside of a large group setting were more likely to strengthen mentor-student relationships. The findings suggest that the recruitment of volunteers for a school-based mentoring program should focus less on the volunteer's proficiency in academic subjects and more on social skills that facilitate relationship-building with the student. In addition to these new empirical findings regarding the effective components of school-based mentoring programs, the study displays a theoretical structure with which to assess the results of randomized evaluations of mentoring programs. 8 tables and 35 references