The Study of Mentoring in the Learning Environment (SMILE): A Randomized Evaluation of the Effectiveness of School-based Mentoring
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The effect of providing youth school-based mentoring (SBM), in addition to other school-based support services, was examined with a sample of 516 predominately Latino students across 19 schools. Participants in a multi-component, school-based intervention program run by a youth development agency were randomly assigned to one of two conditions: (1) supportive services alone or (2) supportive services plus SBM. Compared to community-based mentoring, the duration of the SBM was brief (averaging eight meetings), partly because the agency experienced barriers to retaining mentors. Intent-to-treat (ITT) main effects of SBM were tested using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) and revealed small, positive main effects of mentoring on self-reported connectedness to peers, self-esteem (global and present-oriented), and social support from friends, but not on several other measures, including grades and social skills. Three-way cross-level interactions of sex and school level (elementary, middle, and high school) revealed that elementary school boys and high school girls benefited the most from mentoring. Among elementary school boys, those in the mentoring condition reported higher social skills (empathy and cooperation), hopefulness, and connectedness both to school and to culturally different peers. Among high school girls, those mentored reported greater connectedness to culturally different peers, self-esteem, and support from friends. Findings suggest no or iatrogenic effects of mentoring for older boys and younger girls. Therefore, practitioners coordinating multi-component programs that include SBM would be wise to provide mentors to the youth most likely to benefit from SBM and bolster program practices that help to support and retain mentors.