The Limits of Mentors
THE SOURCE: “Longer-Term Impacts of Mentoring, Educational Services, and Learning Incentives: Evidence From a Randomized Trial in the United States” by Núria Rodríguez-Planas, in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, Oct. 2012.
What happens when a mediocre high school student from a disadvantaged background receives special attention? Beginning in 1995, at a cost of nearly $25,000 per pupil over five years, the federal Quantum Opportunity Program put this question to the test. The program, whose goal was to raise high school graduation and college enrollment rates, showered 580 students at 11 high schools in cities such as Washington and Houston with professional mentors, tutoring, and cash awards throughout their high school years. The long-term results were decidedly mixed, reports Núria Rodríguez-Planas, a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor in Bonn, Germany.
Initially, Quantum students graduated from high school or obtained a GED both more quickly and at higher rates than their peers in a control group, largely thanks to strides made by female participants in the program. But two years after the initial survey, that advantage disappeared as high school dropouts in the control group reversed course and earned GEDs.
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