Mentoring Facts

  • The best mentoring relationships involve frequent contact—ideally, an hour or more weekly.
  • Long-term commitment by mentors is necessary for positive outcomes—a year or longer is ideal.
  • Participating in structured activities can strengthen mentor-mentee relationships.
  • Closer bonds result from discussing social, emotional and personal issues.
  • Mentors who establish relationships with other caring adults in their mentees’ lives (e.g., parents, teachers) improve mentoring outcomes for youth.
  • Youth from higher-risk environments tend to benefit more from mentoring than youth from low-risk environments.
  • Boys and girls experience mentoring differently. Studies show that girls prefer relationship-based mentoring, while boys are more likely to enjoy activity-based mentoring.
  • Activities should be developmentally appropriate. Younger children tend to enjoy physical activities and structured play. Adolescents prefer peer-related activities and those offering chances to practice skills, try new activities, and take risks.
  •  Matching mentors and mentees by race, ethnicity, and/or culture can be helpful but is not mandatory for successful relationships.
  • Matching based on interests, skills and personality works best to create stronger, longer-lasting connections.


Cartwright, A.D. & Henricksen, Jr., R. C. (2012). The lived experience of black collegiate males with absent fathers: Another generation. Journal of Professional Counseling: Practice, Theory, and Research, 39(2), 29-39.

Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring, 3rd edition. (2009). MENTOR: Alexandria, VA. Retrieved from

Komosa-Hawkins, K. (2012). The impact of school-based mentoringon adolescents’ social–emotional health. Mentoring&Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 20(3), 393-408.

Small, S.A. (2008). What research tells us about effective youth mentoring programs. What Works, Wisconsin Fact Sheet. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin–Madison/Extension.




(from The National Assessment of Educational Progress Executive Summary (July 2009)


“White students had higher scores than Black students, on average, on all assessments.”

“White students had average scores at least 26 points higher than Black students in each subject, on a 0-500 scale.”

“At the state level, gaps in grade 4 mathematics existed in 2007 in the 46 states for which results were available. At grade 8, mathematics gaps existed in 2007 in the 41 states for which results were available.”

“At the state level, gaps in grade 4 reading existed in 2007 in the 44 states for which results were available. At grade 8, reading gaps existed in 2007 in 41 of the 42 states for which results were available.”

Although the gap has narrowed since 1970, “the typical American black still scores below 75 percent of American whites on almost every standardized test.” (The Black-White Test Score Gap, Jencks and Phillips)

“the test score gap is large enough to have important social and economic consequences.”

“70 percent. This is the portion of African-American children born to unmarried women”


The National Assessment of Educational Progress consistently reports that the average 8th grade minority student performs at about the level of the average 4th grade white student (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003).


As stated in the book, The Black-White Test Score Gap by Jencks and Phillips:


In addition, they state,

“Eliminating the test score gap would sharply increase black college graduate rates. It would also reduce racial disparities in men’s earnings and would probably eliminate racial disparities in women’s earnings. Eliminating the test score gap would also allow selective colleges, professional schools, and employers to phase out the racial preferences that have caused so much political trouble over the past generation.”



“Employment prospects for young black men worsened even when the economy was robust. By the early 2000s, more than a third of all young black non-college men were incarcerated.”

“More than 60 percent of black high school dropouts born since the mid-1960s go to prison. Mass incarceration blights the prospects of black women seeking husbands. So does another trend noted by sociologist William Julius Wilson: “In 2003-2004, for every 100 bachelor’s degrees conferred on black men, 200 were conferred on black women.””

Only 35 percent of black children live with two parents, which partly explains why, while only 24 percent of white eighth-graders watch four or more hours of television on an average day, 59 percent of their black peers do.

Black children also are disproportionately handicapped by this class-based disparity: By age 4, the average child in a professional family hears about 20 million more words than the average child in a working-class family and about 35 million more than the average child in a welfare family — a child often alone with a mother who is a high school dropout.

After surveying much research concerning many possible explanations of why progress stopped, particularly in neighborhoods characterized by a “concentration of deprivation,” the ETS report says: “It is very hard to imagine progress resuming in reducing the education attainment and achievement gap without turning these family trends around” including “getting fathers back into the business of nurturing children.”

Barton wrote “America’s Smallest School: The Family.” He has estimated that about 90 percent of the difference in schools’ proficiencies can be explained by five factors: the number of days students are absent from school, the number of hours students spend watching television, the number of pages read for homework, the quantity and quality of reading material in the students’ homes — and, much the most important, the presence of two parents in the home.


Home Learning Conditions

Children whose parents or caregivers read to them when they are young gain a considerable advantage in terms of language acquisition, literacy development, achievement in reading comprehension, and general success in school. Black and Hispanic children are read to much less than white children are, and children in poverty are read to less than children from higher socioeconomic brackets.


Reading is just one of many parent behaviors that develop cognitive capabilities in children. Three-year-old children in professional families had a vocabulary as large as that of the parents in the study who were on welfare.


watching a lot of television is associated with lower achievement. A recent study led by Christakis (2004) established that each hour of television that a child watches on a daily basis between the ages of 1 and 3 years old increases by 10 percent the risk that the child will have attention problems. Forty-two percent of black 4th graders watch six hours or more of television per day—more than three times the percentage of white 4th graders who watch that much.


We speak of the teacher-pupil ratio, but we also need to think in terms of a parent-pupil ratio. Whether the family includes two parents as resources or just one is bound to make a difference. Substantial research on parent availability confirms this commonsense idea. The family is the institution that has the job of raising children and socializing them. Public policies and programs can help families when they are struggling, but no acceptable substitute for families has been invented.

The trends are not encouraging. During the last quarter of a century or more, the two-parent family has been in decline in the United States and throughout the developed world. And the relationship of these trends to the achievement gap is clear: Just 38 percent of black children lived with both parents in 2000; almost one in 10 lived with neither parent. Among Hispanic children, 65 percent lived with two parents, as did 75 percent of white children. Struggling single-parent mothers, and sometimes fathers, need all the help they can get from the community and from the school.


The Home-School Connection

The need for active parent participation—strong interaction between parents and the school—is well recognized. The online Child Trends Data Bank, in summarizing the research, concluded that

students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance, and they are more likely to complete secondary school. (2003)

Child Trends also found that differences in parent involvement by race/ethnicity and income tend to show up in situations that require deeper involvement. Most parents attend scheduled meetings with teachers, but parents of black and Hispanic students and low-income parents are much less likely than parents of white students are to attend a school event, do volunteer work, or serve on a committee. Teachers in high-poverty schools are most likely to say that lack of parent involvement is a problem.

Schools need to set the climate for strong connections with parents, and educators may need to put in extended effort with many low-income and single-parent families. One notable effort is the decision of New York City to have a home-school coordinator in every school—an initiative that comes with a large price tag.

The rigor of the curriculum, unsurprisingly, has a clear association with student achievement.

Although all racial/ethnic groups are now taking harder courses than in the past, minorities still lag considerably behind, and they are underrepresented in advanced placement examinations.

Computers have permeated schools with a high percentage of minority and poor students about as much as they have other schools. In the classroom, however, computers are somewhat less likely to be available to minority students than to nonminority students. The gap widens in terms of Internet availability in the classroom, and it widens further in the case of more advanced uses, such as using the Internet to conduct research. Although 61 percent of students in schools with low minority enrollments were assigned such research in 1999, this was true of only 35 percent of students in schools with high minority enrollments. Similar discrepancies are found in schools with high proportions of low-income students.

Research has shown that a positive disciplinary climate is directly linked to higher achievement. The school learning climate is negatively affected by a range of student behaviors, including disrespect for teachers, absenteeism, use of alcohol and drugs, violence, and possession of firearms. On a wide range of conditions that impede learning, research has found differences among the experiences of various racial/ethnic and income groups.

Where to Begin?

Clearly, both school and non-school factors underlie the achievement gap. Further, the conditions that improve learning in school and out of school are intertwined. For example, wealthy communities with families that place a high value on learning are likely to have strong schools, attract good teachers, and have healthy interactions between parents and teachers. Communities characterized by low family income are likely to have schools with fewer resources to attract highly qualified teachers.

Closing the gap must be more than a one-front operation. Educators must hold ourselves responsible and accountable for improving schools when and where we can. At the same time, we must recognize that the achievement gap has deep roots. Governments, communities, neighborhoods, and families have the responsibility to create conditions that remove barriers to cognitive development and support learning in the home.

4 comments on “STATISTICS
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