Literature Review: The Risk of it All

I’m big on mentoring and the impact it has on people (mainly students, because “people” also includes adults that suck, and I don’t much care about them).
My mentors played a huge part in my life, and I’ve seen friends fall from their path for a lack of having them.
So i’m always interested in aspects of mentoring.
Because, I’m big on it.

Knowing that info, a colleague sent a link my way to a study they found for a school project, but never used.
I decided to review it.
Because why not.

Did you know that students with a certain reputation in school have a whole label dedicated to them?
Well, they do; “At-risk”.

An at-risk student is defined by the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), as a student who is likely to fail at school, with school failure seen as dropping out before graduating from high school.

A student falls into this category for a number of reasons ranging from having a single-parent household, not having the resources to be prepared for the school day which might include a lack of ability to get rest, or not having access to food and shelter, or for more complex reasons like a lack of social interaction or feelings of compassion. As outlined by the NCES (Owings, 1992) their behaviors are passive and underachieving attitudes, frequent absences, frequently disruptive, and aggressive natures. In a classroom setting this can pose many issues, the main ones being the safety of other students, and the level of achievement accomplished by the at-risk, sometimes referred to as trouble, student.

“From choices involving behavior and conduct to values, opinions, and passions, the student subculture exerts a powerful pressure on individuals and small groups…” (Minor, 2007).

Kids will listen to other kids, before they listen to the adult that previously gave them the exact same information. In the form of a mob-mentality, students go with what their friends are doing. So, it would make sense that a “trouble” student normally surrounded by negativity, if surrounded by positivity would yield an improvement in behavior.
A mentor is defined by Dictonary.com (2017) as an influential senior sponsor or supporter. What if students who don’t have a confidant were given compassion, understanding, and someone to vent their frustrations to, without fear of the judgement their peers would give? What if a student were able to have a friend in an adult, that guides them on the right path, and assists them in ways they wouldn’t allow another adult to, that they see as just an authority figure? Creating a space for at-risk students to have a mentor in and out of school might be able to fill a gap not accessible by a teacher or counselor.

The study presented to me focuses on the change in office referrals and unexcused absences, and for assessment uses a custom School Connectedness Survey and analysis of program processes to determine success.

Participants
School counselors identified 45 students from 13 – 15 years old, but the study consisted of only 34 to be the mentored group, and a random assignment of students to the control group that were placed on a waiting list for the mentor program and notified of their wait status. The 34 students were chosen based on having at least three office referrals, seven unexcused absences, and no previous or existing individualized education program. However, after the program was explained and the willingness to participate was expressed, the mentor group dropped to 32 participants. The composition of ethnicity was 56% white and 44% Hispanic, with the control group being 40% white and 60% Hispanic. Additionally, the mentored group was 19% female and 81% male; the control group was 13% female and 87% male (Converse, 2009).

The referrals and unexcused absences were used because they are predictors of misbehavior, and if students who had some form of mentoring in the form of an individualized education program were included in the study, the results might be skewed.

The mentors comprised of 13 faculty and staff members, 11 (85%) female and 2 (15%) male, with three females volunteering to mentor two students. The mentors were given $400 for one mentee, and $600 for two mentees, with the stipulation that they must meet regularly and consistently while completing reports required by the study. Mentors were also not allowed to mentor students already in their own respective classes (Converse, 2009).

Setting
The students were enrolled in an urban junior high school which included 1,148 students grades 7-9. The students were 66% white, 26% Hispanic, 6% Pacific Islander, and 43% received free of reduced lunch (Converse, 2009).

Procedure
The program was implemented during the third and fourth quarter. Data about students was collected from the first and second quarters, mentors were selected and trained 4 weeks prior to the third quarter, and students completed the School Connectedness Survey 1 week before the third quarter. Mentors were given their mentees’ information and were asked to contact them and develop a weekly meeting schedule during the first week of the third quarter. A final copy of the schedule was given to the parents and principal for overall approval. Meeting times were to be during a nonacademic time; lunch, before or after school, etc.

The mentor and mentee discussed and decided on a pre-approved set of activities, at the start of every session and used their scheduled time to build relationships and bond with each other. They were not allowed to leave the school campus during a meeting, and if a mentor was unable to make the meeting the program coordinator and mentee were notified before the scheduled time. For the entire duration of the program only one meeting was cancelled, and it was rescheduled for the following week.
The mentors were provided with biweekly training refreshers where they could keep their expectations and previous training fresh in their minds, and idea sharing opportunities in the form of e-mails about successful techniques of activities. At the end of the school year, the program coordinator collected students’ data for the third and fourth quarters, and students completed the School Connectedness Survey during the final week of school (Converse, 2009).

Results
Before the program began students in the control group had a mean of 5.67 referrals per student, and the mentored group had a mean of 6.19 referrals per student. During the program those numbers changed to the control group having a mean of 6.75, and students in the mentored group having a mean of 3.13.

According to the study, 69% of students in the control group had more referrals than the average of the mentored group. Data shows that both groups had a high number of referrals before the program, but while the control group had a sharp increase in number, the mentored group had a slow decline in number. Data showed there was a drop in absences for both groups, but no significant difference. After the posttest for school connectedness was given, data showed a significant increase in the mean rating for the mentored students in comparison to the control group.

As for program processes deemed essential through a code system using the mentor logs, it was revealed that positively viewed mentors described more positive changes in their mentee, and more frequently reported relaxed sessions versus a mentor viewed as having questioned impact. Activities showing a greater impact were listening to the mentee talk, sharing food, and playing games, and were more frequent with mentors viewed positively (Converse, 2009).

Discussion
A mentoring program was provided for a controlled and mentored group of students. For 18 weeks, the mentored group met with a mentor at least once a week, and was given the opportunity to bond and build a relationship with their mentor during nonacademic times throughout the school day. Final data showed that all of the students showed a great improvement in their idea of school, and an increase in behavior.
Data has also shown the impact of a great mentor who can connect to students, versus a mentor who cannot. I would be curious to know if in a follow-up study, the students in the mentored group would still show an improvement in behavior. I think it would be evidence of a new intrinsic motivation to strive for greatness, rather than be influenced by negativity they are surrounded by.

My main problem however with this study is the number of mentors not matching the number of mentees in the program. The study’s review does not account for the missing number of students accepted into program and not assigned a mentor. I also would have liked data concerning the students’ lives at home. It is possible that their knowledge of participation in the program influenced the parents to change some aspect of their home life, in turn having a positive effect on the student in and out of school.

In all, mentoring has been proven successful in many instances, and would benefit not only those involved but also the school campus as a whole by helping to boost at-risk students’ morale and views on education. Every student deserves support in reaching success, as teachers it is our job to provide our students with as many opportunities as we can to aid them in their efforts.

This Down Here, Is What I Read to Learn About That Up There

Converse, N., & Lignugaris/Kraft, B. (2009). Evaluation of a School-based Mentoring Program for At-Risk Middle School Youth. Remedial and Special Education, 30(1), 33-46. Retrieved July 20, 2017, from http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0741932507314023

King, K. A., Vidourek, R. A., Davis, B., & McClellan, W. (2002).

Mentor. (n.d.). Retrieved July 20, 2017, from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mentor?s=t

Minor, F. D. (2007). Building Effective Peer Mentor Programs. Learning Communities and Educational Reform, Summer, 2007th ser., 1-13. Retrieved July 20, 2017, from http://wacenter.evergreen.edu/docs/monographs/lcsa/lcsa4building.pdf

Owings, J. (1992). Characteristics of At-Risk Students in NELS:88. Statistical Analysis Report, 92(042), 1-105. Retrieved July 20, 2017, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubs92/92042.pdf. Increasing self-esteem and school connectedness through a multidimensional mentoring program. Journal of School Health, 72, 294–299

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