Mentoring programs for high school graduation

Mentoring programs pair adult mentors with at-risk students to provide guidance through academic and personal challenges (Campbell-Wilson 2011). Trained mentors meet regularly with students, establishing a personal relationship and helping the student overcome obstacles in and out of school. Mentors also model positive behavior and decision-making skills (IES WWC-Rumberger 2017).

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased high school graduation

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Improved academic outcomes

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that mentoring programs for at-risk students improve high school graduation rates (Campbell-Wilson 2011, CG-TFR Education). Mentoring programs can also help youth with disabilities graduate and transition to postsecondary education or employment (Lindsay 2016*).

On average, mentoring programs increase graduation rates among students at risk of dropping out by 9% (CG-TFR Education). Mentoring programs with longer durations (e.g., lasting more than one year) have stronger effects than shorter programs (Lindsay 2016*, Child Trends-Lawner 2013). Students who have close relationships with their mentors appear to have stronger academic outcomes than mentored students without close mentor relationships (MDRC-Bayer 2013). Low program attendance or completion rates, staffing, mentor recruitment, and other administrative challenges can reduce the effectiveness of mentoring programs (Campbell-Wilson 2011).

Researchers suggest that programs choose willing adult mentors committed to their task, purposefully match students to mentors, provide training and support for adult mentors, and establish mentor/student meetings at least weekly (IES WWC-Rumberger 2017). Mentoring programs with weekly meetings and opportunities for mentor-mentee interaction outside of large-group settings are more likely to foster close mentor-mentee relationships (MDRC-Bayer 2013).

The cost of mentoring programs ranges from $600 to $4500 per student (CG-TFR Education). Check & Connect, a mentoring program that has been shown to prevent dropout in urban areas with high poverty rates, costs about $1800 per student per year (SPTW). Mentoring programs have an estimated benefit to cost ratio of 2 to 1 (CG-TFR Education).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

As of 2013, Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan have legislation that supports youth mentoring programs (CGA OLR-Dwyer 2013).

Many mentoring programs are implemented in several locations across the country. For example, Check & Connect has been implemented in over 27 states and internationally (Check and Connect). Mentoring USA programs are established in New York City, NY; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Newark, NJ; Silver Spring, MD; and Costa Mesa, CA (Mentoring USA-Locations).

Mentoring programs are a central focus for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that supports non-profit and faith-based groups in more than 60,000 locations across the country. CNCS also partners with several organizations to support the National Mentoring Month campaign (CNCS-Mentoring month). 

Implementation Resources

NMRC-Mentoring - National Mentoring Resource Center (NMRC). Supporting youth mentoring practitioners across the country.

YG-Mentoring resources - Youth.gov (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Youth topic: Mentoring.

Check and Connect - University of Minnesota. Check & connect: A comprehensive student engagement intervention.

MENTOR - MENTOR. MENTOR: The national mentoring partnership that promotes, advocates, and is a resource for mentoring.

CNCS-Mentoring connector database - Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS); MENTOR. MENTOR's Mentoring Connector database: Become a mentor.

Citations - Evidence

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Campbell-Wilson 2011 - Wilson SJ, Tanner-Smith EE, Lipsey MW, Steinka-Fry KT, Morrison J. Dropout prevention and intervention programs: Effects on school completion and dropout among school-aged children and youth: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2011:8.

CG-TFR Education - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). Task Force Recommends (TFR) Education Programs to Promote Health Equity.

Lindsay 2016* - Lindsay S, Hartman LR, Fellin M. A systematic review of mentorship programs to facilitate transition to post-secondary education and employment for youth and young adults with disabilities. Disability and Rehabilitation. 2016;38(14):1329–1349.

Child Trends-Lawner 2013 - Lawner EK, Beltz M, Moore KA. What works for mentoring programs: Lessons from experimental evaluations of programs and interventions. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends; 2013.

MDRC-Bayer 2013 - Bayer A, Grossman JB, DuBois DL. School-based mentoring programs: Using volunteers to improve the academic outcomes of underserved students. Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC). 2013.

IES WWC-Rumberger 2017 - Rumberger R, Addis H, Allensworth E, et al. Preventing dropout in secondary schools. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (NCEE), US Department of Education (US ED), Institute of Education Sciences (IES), What Works Clearinghouse (WWC); 2017.

SPTW - Social Programs That Work (SPTW). Full list of programs.

Citations - Implementation Examples

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CGA OLR-Dwyer 2013 - Dwyer K. Youth mentoring programs in other states. Connecticut General Assembly (CGA), Office of Legislative Research (OLR), OLR Research Report 2013-R-0459. 2013.

Check and Connect - University of Minnesota. Check & connect: A comprehensive student engagement intervention.

Mentoring USA-Locations - Mentoring USA. Where are we?

CNCS-Mentoring month - Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS). National mentoring month.

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