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Program Profile: School-Based Mentoring Program for At-Risk Middle School Youth

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 19, 2014

Program Summary

Offered one-to-one mentoring program to at-risk students in 7th to 9th grades in an urban middle school setting to reduce their discipline referrals and school absences and to improve their school connectedness. This program is rated Promising. The program was associated with a significant decline in the number of office disciplinary referrals and a significant increase in school connectedness. However, the program had no significant impact on unexcused absences.

Program Description

Program Goals
The School-Based Mentoring Program for At-Risk Middle School Youth aimed to prevent behavioral disabilities among at-risk middle school students. Specifically, the goals of the program were to reduce students’ office discipline referrals and unexcused absences and to improve their connectedness to school, peers, and teachers and other adults.

Target Population/Eligibility
The program targeted at-risk students in seventh, eighth, and ninth grades in an urban middle school setting. To be eligible, students were required to be 13 to 15 years old and have a high number of office disciplinary referrals and unexcused absences as determined by the school counselors.

Key Personnel
Faculty and staff at the middle school volunteered to serve as mentors for the at-risk students. The mentors chose mentees from a list, with the stipulation that the mentee could not be a student in the mentor’s class.

Program Activities
The program included weekly one-on-one mentoring sessions over 18 weeks. Meetings were held in the school setting, scheduled either immediately after or before school or during nonacademic time in the course of the school day.

The mentoring program had four components: 1) time commitment, 2) prosocial behavior, 3) communicating effectively, and 4) building trust. Mentors were required to commit to at least one mentoring session each week over the 18 weeks. Following each session, the mentors also had to provide the program coordinator with a log of the mentoring session. Mentors were trained to model and encourage prosocial behaviors and to demonstrate and promote honesty and ethical behavior. Mentors also were trained to use effective verbal and nonverbal communication strategies. For example, they were taught to use active listening skills such as maintaining eye contact with their mentees. Finally, mentors were trained to use trust-building techniques (such as involving the mentee in determining session activities and demonstrating respect for mentee opinions).

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Office Disciplinary Referrals
Converse and Lignugaris/Kraft (2009) found a significant difference between the students in the school-based mentoring program and the wait-list control condition with regard to the number of office disciplinary referrals. Students in the treatment condition received fewer disciplinary referrals (an average of 3.13 office referrals per student) over the 18-week period during which mentoring took place, compared with students in the control condition (an average of 6.75 office referrals per student).

Unexcused Absences
Researchers found no significant difference between the treatment and control groups in the number of unexcused absences during the 18-week period during which the treatment group received mentoring.

School Connectedness
There was a significant difference between the students in the mentoring group and those in the wait-list control condition in their reported levels of school connectedness. At the conclusion of the program, students who received mentoring reported a higher level of school connectedness compared with students in the control condition.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Converse and Lignugaris/Kraft (2009) evaluated a school-based mentoring program targeting students at risk of referral for behavioral disabilities. A pool of 45 at-risk students, ages 13 to 15, was identified to participate in the evaluation based on referrals from school counselors in an urban middle school. These students all had at least three office referrals and at least seven unexcused absences during the previous school quarter. Students with an existing Individualized Education Program were eliminated, reducing the available pool to 34 students. Two students declined to participate and were dropped from the study. The remaining 32 students were randomly assigned to either school-based mentoring (treatment) or the wait-list control condition (16 students in each group).

Most students (81 percent) in the mentored group were male; 56 percent were white, 44 percent Hispanic. Similarly, most of the students in the nonmentored group (87 percent) were male and were 60 percent Hispanic and 40 percent white. The study did not clarify whether the characteristics between the groups at baseline were significantly different.

Outcome measures included a youth-report measure of school connectedness (King et al. 2002) administered at the beginning and end of the 18-week program. Discipline office referrals and unexcused absences also were obtained from school records both for an 18-week period before the start of the program and for the 18 weeks during the program. Analysis of covariance—controlling for baseline scores on the outcome measure—was conducted to test the impact of school-based mentoring program compared with the wait-list control.
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Mentors were compensated for their time. Contingent on meeting with their mentees regularly and consistently submitting the required paperwork, mentors received $400 for one mentee as a compensation for their time (Converse and Lignugaris/Kraft 2009).
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Implementation Information

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School faculty and staff voluntarily served as mentors. Mentors received two half-day training sessions before beginning work with their mentees. The training focused on program components and procedures as well as effective mentoring practices such as positive character, communication skills, and trust building activities. In addition, mentors were provided biweekly supervision and training refreshers, which included ideas on effective mentoring strategies, techniques, and activities. Mentors completed logs following each session and documented the length of the session, a summary of activities, and plans for future meetings (Converse and Lignugaris/Kraft 2009).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Converse, Noelle, and Benjamin Lignugaris/Kraft. 2009. "Evaluation of a School-Based Mentoring Program for At-Risk Middle School Youth." Remedial and Special Education 30(1):33–46.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

King, Keith A., Rebecca A. Vidourek, Beth Davis, and Warren McClellan. 2002. "Increasing Self-Esteem and School Connectedness Through a Multidimensional Mentoring Program." Journal of School Health 72(7):294–99.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Targeted Truancy Interventions
These interventions are designed to increase attendance for elementary and secondary school students with chronic attendance problems. The practice is rated Effective for improving attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy

This practice provides at-risk youth with positive and consistent adult or older peer contact to promote healthy development and functioning by reducing risk factors. The practice is rated Effective in reducing delinquency outcomes; and Promising in reducing the use of alcohol and drugs; improving school attendance, grades, academic achievement test scores, social skills and peer relationships.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
Promising - More than one Meta-Analysis Drugs & Substance Abuse - Multiple substances
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Multiple education outcomes
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Mental Health & Behavioral Health - Psychological functioning

Dropout Prevention Programs
School- or community-based programs targeting frequently absent students or students at risk of dropping out of school. These programs are aimed at increasing school engagement, school attachment, and the academic performance of students, with the main objective of increasing graduation rates. The practice is rated Effective for reducing rates of school dropouts, and rated Promising for improving test scores/grades, graduation rates, and attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Dropout
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Academic achievement/school performance
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Graduation
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy
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Program Snapshot

Age: 13 - 15

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic, White

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): School

Program Type: Mentoring, Truancy Prevention

Targeted Population: Truants/Dropouts

Current Program Status: Not Active

Listed by Other Directories: Campbell Collaboration, Model Programs Guide

Noelle Converse
Special Education Director
Granite School District
2500 State Street
Salt Lake City UT 84115
Phone: 385.646.7336
Fax: 385.646.4601