Short-term mentors don’t help kids

Mentors can help students’ succeed — or harm their chances, reports Education Week. Long-term mentoring relationships benefit children. Students with short-term mentors — less than six months — do worse than those with no mentor at all, concludes David L. DuBois, a University of Illinois at Chicago researcher and a co-author of a study in the Society for Research in Child Development’s Social Policy Report.

“You could actually see studies where the youth in the treated group end up showing more negative change to things like self-esteem, propensity to get involved in risky behavior” than the control group, Mr. DuBois said in a panel on the studies earlier this month. “So obviously, it’s a handle-with-care intervention.”

Low-performing schools often try to recruit volunteers to serve as mentors. Federal funding for school-based programs peaked at more than $100 million in 2006. But most school-based programs don’t create lasting mentor-student relationships. In three studies, researchers found the mentor-student relationship averaged less than six months.

. . . The Social Policy Report meta-analysis found school mentoring programs improved students’ sense of academic efficacy, the level of peer support they had, and relationships with adults outside the family, while reducing truancy and school misconduct, provided the students remained in the program for a year. Still, the researchers noted that the results suggested those improvements could be lost if the students’ mentoring did not continue.

Most school-based mentoring programs last a semester or an academic year and include only campus activities. But  “41 percent of students in the Big Brothers Big Sisters study continued to meet with their mentor, both in school and out, into a second year.” The “bigs” spent more time with their ”littles” and developed a closer bond.

I just volunteered to be tutor two elementary students in reading. Since I travel quite a bit, I enlisted my sister to fill in when I’m out of town. I don’t want the kids thinking they’ve been forgotten. Of course, Peggy and I no longer pass for identical twins.

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