Displaying items by tag: School environment

An Interview with Dr. Barbara McKeon

JULY 26, 2016


Broome Street Academy in New York, NY is not your typical high school. As Head of School, Dr. Barbara McKeon shares that the school’s mission is to “serve children who are homeless, in foster care, or have been involved in the welfare system.” The vast majority of Broome Street Academy’s student body comes from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and faces significant life barriers that can be linked to negative life outcomes. What makes Broome Street Academy so special is that over eighty percent of the students who attend this charter high school go to college, a surprising figure considering these factors.

Published in NMRC Blog
MAY 23, 2017

Over the past several weeks, many youth development professionals have become aware of the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, which revolves around the suicide of a female high school student, Hannah Baker. Due to its fast-spreading popularity, whether or not you have seen it, you may have received questions from parents and youth about the themes that are addressed in the series. These themes, many of which are uncomfortable and controversial, are nonetheless important to talk about, especially with students of a similar age to the characters depicted on the show. Conversations about mental health and suicide can reduce the stigma behind these experiences to allow those who are suffering to know that they are not alone and can get help. However, because of the complexity of these topics and the ways in which they are depicted in the series, parents/guardians, school administrators, and youth development professionals should be aware of the questions and concerns young people may have after watching it, so they can be prepared for the important discussions the series may spark.

For those who are unfamiliar with the series’ premise, the story unfolds through a series of pre-recorded tapes on which the main character, Hannah Baker, describes thirteen reasons that led up to her suicide. Through the episodes the audience finds out that Hannah has had many rumors spread about her, and that eventually she was the target of bullying, social isolation, and sexual abuse. Below, we offer some information about the complex themes addressed in the show, and where you can go for more resources. As we know many parents and youth development professionals have been addressing these topics with youth, we invite you to post other resources and tips you have found useful in the comments section below.

Published in NMRC Blog
Wednesday, 27 September 2017 23:12

2017 September Attendance Awareness Month

SEPTEMBER 27, 2017
2017 September Attendance Awareness Month

This September marks the fifth annual Attendance Awareness Month campaign. This is an opportunity to rally your community, advocates, policymakers, volunteers, funders and supporters around the importance of attendance and its role in academic achievement! To support the goal of increased interest and engagement in school, the week of September 11, 2017, was deemed Mentoring & Attendance Week. We have released a promotional toolkit with mentoring-specific social media messages, graphics and more to help amplify our message that quality mentoring can be instrumental to attendance and academic success.

On September 14 MENTOR and Attendance Works held a “Mentoring & Attendance Awareness” Twitter chat.

MENTOR’s Director of Knowledge Management, Mike Garringer, and Attendance Works’ Executive Director, Hedy Chang, answered questions and engaged in a dialogue on mentoring’s impact in promoting academic success and encouraging youth to attend school every day.

Mentoring and Increasing Student Attendance

Mentoring is a proven tool to help keep students connected to school. Absences – excused and unexcused – add up, resulting in too much time lost in the classroom. Missing 10% of the school year, just two to three days per month, in the early grades can leave many students struggling throughout elementary school. By 6th grade, missing that much school is strongly linked to course failure and even eventual dropout. Every school day counts, and mentors can help make a difference. For example, studies of formal mentoring programs have shown:

  • Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 52% less likely than their peers to skip a day of school.
  • Students who meet regularly with their mentors are 37% less likely than their peers to skip a class.
  • Students at-risk for not graduating were 36% more likely to aspire to enroll in and graduate from college if they had a mentor.

The Attendance Awareness Month campaign is spearheaded by Attendance Works, America’s Promise Alliance, Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, Points of Light and United Way Worldwide and is supported by a growing list of other organizations.

Attendance Works is a national and state initiative that promotes better policy and practice around school attendance.

Published in NMRC Blog
MARCH 6, 2019


Gwinnett County Public Schools’ Community-Based Mentoring Program in Gwinnett County, Georgia plays an important role in our school district’s efforts to support students. In 2008, our CEO/Superintendent created the program to address a need in our community—a need to support underserved African American young males.

The success of the program and its students led to expansion of the program, which now serves African American female students and Hispanic students as well. The mission of our program is to provide mentoring to our students to enhance their social and academic development, resulting in their growth as successful and responsible young adults.

Published in NMRC Blog
Thursday, 28 September 2017 09:48

A Teacher's View on Chronic Absenteeism

SEPTEMBER 28, 2017

A Teacher's View on Chronic AbsenteeismEditor’s Note: Since September is Attendance Awareness Month, this week the NMRC blog will showcase stories and resources on mentoring programs and initiatives that seek to inspire students and keep them involved in school.

“I missed the bus” or, “My mom said we did not have school.” These are a few of the responses I received from students about why they missed school. Then there are other traumatizing or life-changing ones like “My dad died,” “I was afraid to leave after hearing gun shots,” “I was in the hospital because I had an asthma attack.” Too often these events added up, causing my students to miss 10% or more of the school year, by definition making them chronically absent. Having taught in districts with high rates of absenteeism, I learned that I could increase individual student attendance, but it would ultimately take comprehensive efforts from schools and communities to help the over six million students who are chronically absent.

Published in NMRC Blog
Thursday, 02 April 2015 15:12

Achievement Mentoring Program

*Note: The National Mentoring Resource Center makes these “Insights for Mentoring Practitioners” available for each program or practice reviewed by the National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board. Their purpose is to give mentoring professionals additional information and understanding that can help them apply reviews to their own programs. You can read the full review on the Crime Solutions website.

In praise of… praise

In reading about the design and delivery of the Achievement Mentoring Program (AMP), one is struck by the emphasis on praise as a defining feature of mentor-youth interactions. In some ways, that’s not surprising, given that the program builds on social learning theory and the idea that personal, behavioral, and environmental factors all interact and reinforce each other in determining how we learn and how well we engage with the act of learningthus, praising a youth’s positive behavior should also influence his or her concept of self and positive feelings about school, ideally creating a positive feedback loop that nurtures longer-term academic success. And while most mentors certainly praise their mentees when they do something positive or achieve a goal, the structure that AMP puts around doing this notable.

Mentors are tasked with meeting with the students’ teachers before every weekly meeting and finding some positive things from the previous week to praise the student for. Their meetings with the mentees begin with this praise before moving on to addressing challenges, getting the meetings off to a positive start and demonstrating to the student that the “environment” of the school is recognizing their positive behaviors. This praise is then also passed on to other teachers or school staff who can repeat this praise, as well as to parents (the home “environment”) so they can further reinforce this positive behavior and encourage more. This explicit attempt at recognizing and reinforcing all the things the students are doing right is notable and something that mentoring programs could seemingly benefit from more systematically building into the work of mentors. It is likely a lot of extra work for mentors to gather the needed information and subsequently pass it on to other staff and parents too. But that reinforcement of what’s going right is likely important, if not essential, for getting youth to buy into the support given and feel like they are being seen honestly and accurately by the adults who are supporting them (at least in contrast to conversations that might overemphasize the negative). It’s likely a lot easier for a high school freshman to hear a message about improving study habits if they’ve previously been praised for working hard in other aspects of their schoolwork. AMP should be commended for emphasizing this subtle, yet likely important, wrinkle.

Making short-term mentoring a longer term intervention

One of the other interesting aspects of AMP is that the model is able to bring about significant changes from a rather punctuated short-term burst of mentoring. One of the evaluations of AMP describes it as an 18 month mentoring program, and while that’s technically true, most of that mentoring happens during the second semester of students’ first year in the program. That semester features weekly meetings with mentors, but only for about 15-20 minutes at a time. In the second evaluation of AMP (Clarke, 2009), mentored students only met with their mentors during that core semester an average of about five times for just over 20 minutes a meeting (on average). That’s not a lot of interpersonal timethere are plenty of models for struggling students where a youth would exceed that volume of mentoring in a matter of weeks.

After this core semester of mentoring, the mentor continues to meet once a month with the student in the following academic year (once again, for about 20 minutes on average). So while the mentoring relationship lasts a long time, it doesn’t have nearly as much mentoring “dosage” as one might expect given the results obtained.

But the secret to making this work, in using these brief interactions to bring about longer-term academic improvement, may lie in how that time was spent. As noted above, the emphasis is not only on praising specific positive behaviors or achievements, but also on directly addressing struggles and identifying and implementing solutions. Mentors are tasked with spending considerable time during these sessions building skills such as good study habits, organizational and time management skills, interpersonal communication and emotional regulation, test taking skills, and so forth. By combining praise with new skills the mentees can use to address immediate concerns, the program is well positioned to be able to both reinforce positive efforts and reduce future academic or behavioral struggles. The praise shows youth that they have agency over their success or failure (and adults who cared), while the problem-solving gives practical help on current struggles (and building long-term competencies). And the ongoing check-ins the next year can simply reinforce and strengthen the progress made.

These considerations illustrates that the caring and love a mentor provides may go only so far. There may be times when they will have to make a mentee confront a struggle and then do some teaching and skill building so that the youth can overcome their challenges. AMP offers an excellent illustration of how both of those things can be provided in a short, punctuated period of time.

How much can we count on mentors to mentor the way we want them to mentor?

One interesting bit of information in the second evaluation of AMP is the emphasis that was placed on fidelity to the model of mentor-mentee interactions: Did they meet as often as intended, and for how long? Did they follow the protocol of praise, review of academic progress, discussion of problems and solutions, and so forth? This is a highly structured program and the theory of change of the program is premised on some fairly set activities and conversations.

The mentors participating in evaluations of the program to date have all been teachers and other school staff who could reasonably be expected to understand the importance of following the program guidelines as intended and who all can be expected to have had significant prior experience interacting with students and discussing schoolwork. So these were not random volunteers who were just getting used to delivering information to, or talking with, students. They were also compensated for their mentoring time: $90 for completing the training, $500 for full program participation. The developers of the program also spent considerable time checking in with the mentors, both to provide support and to track the fidelity to the idealized implementation of the program.

What they found was that these mentors did not always follow the script. 

According to Clarke:

… mentors demonstrated less compliance on items such as “asked about mentee’s circumstances or perceptions around problem or goal (45%),” “checked how previous plans worked (48%),” and “made plans with mentee to implement a solution (57%).” The mentors had greater compliance for items such as “identified a problem or goal (81%),” “mentor verbalized next step (80%),” and “talk to or left message for mentee (77%).”

The overall fidelity of implementation of the model was 72.5%. This illustrates a few things:

  1. Even programs using paid professionals in a school setting with a clear-cut protocol of interactions and meeting frequency can still have trouble getting the mentors to implement the plan as intended. This is not a criticism of AMP as much as it’s a reminder to all mentoring programs that the point of service delivery to youth is not at the program staff level but at the level of the mentor. Even the best planned interventions are dependent on their adherence to the planned activities (or, if adaptations are made, these are well-aligned with broader principles and goals of the program). And that is not always as reliable as we’d like to think. Kuddos to AMP for getting positive impacts in spite of any gaps in implementation, but we should note that sometimes when a program is less effective than expected, it’s may often be an implementation issue, rather than an issue with the program’s theory of change or general premise.

  2. All mentoring programs should be making some effort to track fidelity of implementation (as well as adaptations made “on the ground” by mentors and staff, some of which may be excellent fodder for program improvements). The most obvious ways of doing this are the ones that most programs already do: Is the match meeting as often and for as long as they should? But programs should consider digging deeper and seeing if mentors are saying the right things, having the right conversations, and helping the youth grow, change, or transform in the ways needed to align with the theory, goals, and vision of the program. The details of mentoring seem undoubtedly to matter and programs can often forget that as they train mentors and send them on their way, hoping that they do the right things. Programs may want to borrow an idea from AMP and be a bit more directive about what good implementation looks like and then meticulously track that information to see if mentoring is being simply offered, or offered with fidelity. That distinction may make all the difference.


Clarke, Lolalyn. “Effects of a School-Based Adult Mentoring Intervention on Low Income, Urban High School Freshmen Judged to be at Risk for Dropout: A Replication and Extension.” PhD diss., Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2009.

For more information on research-informed program practices and tools for implementation, be sure to consult the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ and the "Resources" section of the National Mentoring Resource Center site.

Friday, 19 August 2016 09:30

Achievement Mentoring Program (AMP)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on March 30, 2015

Program Summary

An intervention for urban minority freshmen at risk of dropping out of high school. The goal was to enhance school-related cognitions and behaviors. The program is rated Promising. The program did not significantly impact students’ absences, grade point averages, or decision-making efficacy, but had significant effects on discipline referrals, negative school behavior, performance in mathematics and language arts, and other self-reported outcomes.

You can read the full review on CrimeSolutions.gov.

Monday, 17 August 2020 21:33

Bottom Line

*Note: The National Mentoring Resource Center makes these “Insights for Mentoring Practitioners” available for each program or practice reviewed by the National Mentoring Resource Center Research Board. Their purpose is to give mentoring professionals additional information and understanding that can help them apply reviews to their own programs. You can read the full review on the Crime Solutions website.

In considering the key takeaways from the research on this program that other mentoring programs can apply to their work, it’s useful to reflect on the features and practices that might have influenced its rating as “Promising” (that is, a program that has strong evidence that it achieved some of its justice-related goals).

1. It always helps to provide some follow up to ensure your initial success is maintained.

One of the interesting aspects of the Bottom Line model is that in addition to providing robust college planning and access services, they maintain a presence at several regional colleges and universities that tend to be the types of schools they often encourage youth to attend. These higher education institutions are well-aligned with the clients of Bottom Line as they offer a good combination of relative affordability, low dropout rates, and good academic reputations. And while some of Bottom Line’s outcomes on college acceptance and persistence beyond freshman year are presumably the result of helping students pick a good fit in the first place, the fact that they still have access to Bottom Line counsellors and supports even after they get on campus may well be a major reason why their college retention results look better than those of other services. Although the bulk of the work done in their model is done during the core application and acceptance process, the program seems to have added a valuable secondary component that helps ensure that their mentored youth get ongoing support for making progress toward the ultimate goal of college graduation.

We have seen other examples in our reviews over the years of programs using mentors or ongoing relationships to help maintain progress youth have made under a core set of services. One example can be found in the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe program, where youth are offered community mentors (that they help identify) as a way of maintaining the positive path they are on when they leave the residential portion of the program. Research on the program indicates that youth you stick with that mentor for several years after the initial residential experience tend to be maintaining their positive direction in a number of ways compared to youth who did not get a mentor or who stopped seeing them after some time. This is a good reminder to programs that, when possible, a little follow-up work can go a long ways after your initial services are complete. Other programs may be able to produce similar long-term trajectories through the use of alumni groups, occasional program “check-ins”, and ongoing training and learning opportunities once youth leave the core services.

2. Fidelity of implementation pays dividends.

One of the most helpful aspects of the evaluation work done by Carr and Castleman on behalf of Bottom Line is that they examined not only outcomes of the program, but also factors that may have led to those outcomes. This is particularly helpful when trying to understand why the program seems to have outperformed other college access programs and services in which youth in the control group may have participated. Among the factors that the evaluation looked at was the frequency and consistency of meetings with students. Most of the advisors in the program met with their students an average of almost once every month for 15 months, with a surprisingly high percentage of those being in-person office visits. We have reviewed other college access mentoring programs that offered a lighter touch with more emphasis on phone and text check-ins. Bottom Line seems to have emphasized the consistency and follow through of their meetings with students throughout the process and, not surprisingly given this, the students rated the influence of their advisors very highly. This might not have been the case if they hadn’t met with such regularity and at key points in the application process.

The consistency of service delivery was further examined in the evaluation with an analysis of the results of each advisor individually. This was designed to see if some advisors were more effective than others and if the overall good results were being driven largely by one or two “superstar” performers. Turns out that 19 of the 20 advisors had a net positive estimated outcome for the students they served compared to the control group students. (One has to wonder what the post-evaluation conversation was with the lone advisor whose students fared considerably worse.) Even more impressive is that in Bottom Line there is very little deliberate matching of advisors with youth who might be a “good fit” based on shared backgrounds, gender, or interests. The program essentially “randomly assigns” youth to any and all of the mentors, something they could only do if they had confidence that each advisor was able to faithfully walk each student through the activities and could form a strong working relationship with a wide variety of participants.

We put a lot of emphasis on matching mentors and youth based on surface-level similarities and interests in the mentoring field. But programs like Bottom Line that have a very clear set of goals and a structured approach to getting the young person from “point A” to “point B” should arguably really emphasize the consistency of the experience from mentor to mentor and work to ensure that regardless of who they are matched with that youth will get a positive relationship that hits all the critical tasks in their work together. Bottom Line likely achieved this fidelity of implementation through strong advisor training and by monitoring the progress of each match through the program. But now that they know their model can be delivered by many types of individuals, for a diverse array of students, with very little inconsistency, they will have an easier time replicating these results in other locations. They have learned that for their program the process is, in many ways, as important as the people.

3. Sometimes, all you need to do may be to change how young people are thinking about a situation.

In addition to finding that the program was producing positive results in most of the areas examined, the Bottom Line evaluation shed some light into how the program was influencing young people. Most notably, Bottom Line students were much more likely than control youth to indicate that affordability was a major factor in their application decisions. The Bottom Line model has several stages where cost-information is highly prioritized: when considering potential schools to apply to, when reviewing acceptance information and financial aid offerings, and in ultimately deciding where to attend. Other college access models also review these types of considerations, but the information provided by control youth indicated that this financial review was less emphasized than it was in Bottom Line and that they ultimately didn’t consider affordability as much when applying and enrolling. By getting these students to think a bit more deeply about the intersection of school quality and school cost, they helped them prioritize choosing a school that they could afford and attend for all four years of college, something that many students, especially those from lower-income backgrounds as in Bottom Line, tend to really struggle to make into a reality.

Other mentoring programs should think about what information might be critical to helping mentees reach their goals within the context of their programs. They may find that one of the best ways to achieve those goals is by encouraging mentors to focus on providing key information and helping youth enhance their ability to think about important factors in their decision-making. The outcome of a decision can only be as good as the thinking and information that informed it, and Bottom Line seems to have realized that their theory of change for students has some clear points where the influence of a mentor helps youth plan for their futures more effectively.

For more information on research-informed program practices and tools for implementation, be sure to consult the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ and the "Resources" section of the National Mentoring Resource Center site.

Monday, 17 August 2020 22:05

Bottom Line

Evidence Rating: Promising - More than one study

Date: This profile was posted on August 14, 2020

Program Summary

This is a college counseling program that promotes 4-year college enrollment and completion for low-income, first-generation students. The program is rated Promising. Participants in each of two cohorts had a statistically significant greater likelihood of enrolling in a 4-year college or any college, compared with the control group. In one cohort, participants were also enrolled in more total semesters and more likely to be continuously enrolled in college, compared with control students.

You can read the full review on CrimeSolutions.gov.

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on August 8, 2017

Program Summary

This is a school-based, one-on-one mentoring program designed to improve academic performance and life satisfaction, and decrease absences and behavioral infractions among middle school students. The program is rated Promising. The intervention group had significantly fewer unexcused absences, and significantly higher math and English grades and self-reported levels of life satisfaction. However, there were no effects on school-reported behavioral infractions or grades for science or history.

You can read the full review on CrimeSolutions.gov.

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