PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Dr. Mary E. Brenner and
The Academic Volunteer and Mentor Service Program, hereafter referred to as the Academic Mentor Program, was designed to provide upper elementary and junior high school students with caring and consistent adult mentors, with a focus on academic mentoring. The goal was to improve the aspirations and academic achievement of students. The initial 3-year implementation phase of the Academic Mentor Program was offered at three elementary school sites including Franklin Elementary School, Peabody Charter School, and Washington Elementary School. In the fourth year, project students entered junior high school and continued to participate in the mentoring program. The Mentor Program successfully completed five years of implementation.
The Project's objectives were to:
- Raise academic achievement;
- Improve social behavior;
- Raise educational and occupational goals:
- Improve attitudes toward school.
The mentees were average performing students who were referred to the program by school personnel. The mentors were volunteers recruited from local businesses, community service organizations, colleges, and universities. Prospective mentors were required to complete a thorough application and screening process. After mentors were screened for eligibility, a program orientation and training was provided. The interactive training included a discussion of the roles and responsibilities of the mentors, time commitment, consistency of participation, and the clarification of expectations and boundaries of the relationship with the mentee.
After submitting an application, the students were interviewed. They were selected on the basis of several factors including a strong desire to participate in the program and parental consent.
Mentors and mentees were matched based on the submitted applications, interviews, and on the basis of shared interests regarding a hobby, pastime, or career path.
After the matching was completed, the mentors/mentees were expected to meet for a minimum of one hour per week, maintain weekly telephone contact over a one-year period, and attend program events. Once the mentor and mentee built sufficient rapport, they were encouraged to begin working on joint projects or activities related to their similar interests. Samples of suggested activities included: creation of entries for science fairs, art exhibits, or literary contests; community service projects; musical performances; computer-generated projects; or other school-related assignments.
The researchers completed the formative and summative evaluations of the four-year study of the Academic Volunteer Mentor Service Program (AMP). In the first year, thirty-two students from three different schools participated in the AMP. In the second year of the project, an additional 36, fifth grade students were chosen to participate in the mentor program. The third year extended the program to three junior high/middle schools so that mentoring pairs could continue to meet on a regular basis. In the fourth year, the researchers followed the progress of the rest of the students who transitioned to the junior high/middle school.
The evaluation had two components. The first component was a summative evaluation that was designed to evaluate the program's progress in meeting its goals and objectives. The second was a formative evaluation to evaluate the process of program implementation over the course of the intervention. The summative evaluation was carried out using an experimental design which involved collecting data on two groups of students: a treatment group composed of mentees and a control group composed of similar students who did not participate in the program. The data for the summative evaluation included surveys of the students, interview data, and data from school records. The formative evaluation was carried out by individually interviewing mentors, through focus group interviews with mentees and their matched comparison groups and through participant observation at AMP meetings and events.
This part of the evaluation focused on three facets of the project:
The formative evaluation showed that the program functioned well in its first three years. Mentors and mentees alike enjoyed the coordination, structure and group activities that characterized the elementary school program.
The summative evaluation found that the program had some positive and significant effects on psychological well-being, career aspirations and academic grades of program participants.
The qualitative data suggested that career aspirations were generally higher among participants. The findings indicated that the mentored students had much higher career goals, suggesting that the mentoring process may have triggered a greater concern for the future among the mentored students. Finally, the results showed that mentored students were doing better academically, on average, than students without mentors.