Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Mentoring and Academic Performance of Black and Under-Resourced Urban Middle Grade Students

Academic journal article Negro Educational Review

Mentoring and Academic Performance of Black and Under-Resourced Urban Middle Grade Students

Article excerpt

Abstract

Our study examines the impact of adult mentoring on Black, under-resourced, urban, middle grade students. First, we explore impact of mentoring on grades earned in the context of a comprehensive program which included one-on-one mentoring and an array of out-of-school enrichment activities. We also examine the nature of mentor-mentee engagement during mentoring interactions. Descriptive statistics were used to compare mean differences in grade point averages (GPAs) of students in the comprehensive program with those in the non-comprehensive (one-on-one mentoring only) program. Comprehensive Program mentees earned higher GPAs than non-comprehensive mentees overall in mathematics, reading, and science. Further, when reading GPAs of the groups were compared, the mean difference was statistically significant at the .05 level. An independent samples t-test for equality of means was also used to explore the impact of mentor-mentee engagement. Results from this examination highlighted the importance of the intensity and content of engagement during mentor-mentee interactions.

Introduction

A great deal of attention has been paid to the academic performance of urban Black American students. Much of this attention has been focused on disparity issues as reflected in standardized test performance (e.g., Berliner, 2009; Gordon, Iwamoto, Ward, Potts & Boyd, 2009; Hermstein & Murray, 1994; Neal, 2005; Robelen, 2013). Since the early 1970s the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has been testing the progress of students in the United States in the school subjects of mathematics and reading. The stated purpose of the nation-wide testing was to keep policy makers, educators, and the general public informed regarding the trends in student performance. In addition to test results performance, NAEP officials have also provided guidance about how to interpret the test (Vanneman, Hamilton, Baldwin Anderson & Rahman, 2009).

Data analysis shared by NAEP revealed a persistent test score gap between under- and adequately resourced groups. The gap garnered increasing attention. Specifically, the attention highlightedin the popular press tended to focus on descriptions of presumed deficits of Black and Latino Americanstudents (who were over-represented in the under-resourced group) often without taking into account thecautions in interpreting scores and trends urged by NAEP analysts. Some education professionals and others acknowledged the trends as well as the context in which they took place (Barton & Coley, 2010; Berliner, 2009; Gee, 2011; Grissmer, Kirby, Berends, & Williamson, 1994). Others argued that the focus on economic factors as a possible cause for the disparities drew needed attention away from the more complex and difficult-to-discuss issues; one of which is variation of human intelligence across groups of people (Hermstein & Murray, 1994; Jencks & Phillips, 1998). Hemstein and Murray contended that the failure to take into account "the role of intelligence is to... grope with symptoms instead of causes, [and] to stumble into supposed remedies that have no chance of working (pp. xxii-xxiii)." In fact, Jencks and Phillips strongly suggested that the case for economic factors was overstated; they posited that cultural and psychological factors more likely played an even more important role in academic achievement outcomes than economics.

Still, what in many instances may be less well known by the general public was the fact that when resources were made available to families and were directed to address both in- and out-of school needs, student groups who had previously been expected to struggle academically began to make steady gains (Barton & Coley, 2010; Gee, 2011; Vanneman, et al., 2009). Further, researchers noted that when political and educational policies shifted and led to significantly reduced funding for ameliorative efforts, progress in reducing the disparities stopped. …

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