Academic mentoring keeps students engaged and learning

Triggering two of three early warning indicators – course failure, five or more absences per semester, or suspension/expulsion – in a school year by the 9th grade is highly predictive of leaving high school without a diploma.  Efforts to reduce the number of students with multiple early warning indicators at Washington Middle School are well under way, where school day tutoring and group mentoring focused on improving growth mindset for academically at-risk 6th graders with a team of college students at Seattle University (SU).

Watch One Child at a Time: Academic Mentoring at Washington Middle School (runtime 3:20)

In 2011, the Seattle University Youth Initiative was launched with the goals of improving academic achievement for low-income youth living in the Yesler Terrace neighborhood and providing service opportunities for SU students and staff.  In 2013, with funding from College Spark, the project expanded to Washington Middle School and included school day and after-school tutoring and group mentoring focused on improving growth mindset for academically at-risk 6th graders.

More than 50 Seattle University college students mentor about 150 middle school students through the Redhawk Academic Mentoring Program.  All year long, the academic mentors provide support by reviewing students’ grades, helping with homework, and setting learning goals.  They also build deep relationships, which are less tangible, but are critical to improving student outcomes.  “It’s fun because we’re closer in age to them than their teachers and we have a different dynamic so they’re willing to talk to us about things they wouldn’t tell teachers, or parents even,” explains Anub Nur, Academic Mentor and Seattle University student.

Both Washington Middle School and Seattle University students develop relationships and build community through the schools’ partnership and work.  Middle school students benefit significantly from the development of these strong mentor-mentee relationships.  Their academic mentor becomes an adult in the building they trust and can go to with any problem, both academic and social.  Research has shown that when students feel connected to an adult in the building, they in turn feel more connected to their school.  When students feel safe, encouraged, and respected, they are able to thrive academically.  Over two years, the rate of 6th graders passing all classes increased from a baseline of 60% to 90%.