Student Mentoring Programs:

Education's Monitoring and Information Sharing Could Be Improved

GAO-04-581: Published: Jun 25, 2004. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 2004.

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As part of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) of 2001, the Congress authorized a 3-year, $17 million per year school-based mentoring grant program. For fiscal year 2004, Congress has increased funding to about $50 million to fund additional mentoring efforts. Congress requested that GAO provide information on the student mentoring program. To do this, GAO answered the following questions: (1) What are the basic elements, policies, and procedures of successful mentoring programs? (2) What are the key characteristics of NCLBA-funded mentoring efforts, including the extent to which they have the basic elements, policies, and procedures of successful mentoring programs? (3) How does the Department of Education monitor program implementation? (4) What are Education's and grantees' plans to assess program outcomes?

According to the literature GAO reviewed, successful mentoring programs (1) plan their programs carefully prior to implementation; (2) develop policies and procedures to effectively manage their programs, including mentor screening and training; (3) ensure program sustainability through marketing; and (4) evaluate program outcomes and disseminate their evaluation findings. Most of the 121 mentoring grantees that Education funded shared many characteristics--most had 5 years or more of experience mentoring youth, had similar goals, and offered "one-to-one" mentoring. All mentoring grantees listed in their applications that they had some elements of successful programs, but established grantees GAO visited reported fewer implementation challenges, such as problems recruiting mentors, than did newer grantees. Most of the 11 grantees GAO visited said they would benefit from learning about other implementation strategies through information sharing. However, Education has not facilitated information sharing among mentoring grantees, although it is considering doing so. Education used multiple methods to monitor grantees, including expenditure tracking, but the office responsible for monitoring mentoring grants did not review single audit reports as required by its guidance. Education's Chief Financial Officer reviewed the audits but did not forward audits to the office overseeing the mentoring grants because findings did not pertain to these new grants. However, GAO found that 8 percent of the mentoring grantees had audit findings related to how well they handled other Education grants. Education is currently assessing whether it will conduct an overall evaluation of its mentoring program. Education required that all grantees have evaluation plans, and most plan to report on youth outcomes related to academic achievement and attendance. However, grantees plan to use different methodologies, making it difficult for Education to have a cohesive picture of its mentoring program as a whole.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In September 2004, Education funded a technical assistance center for its mentoring grantees that would provide training and resources to help grantees with a range of activities. In addition, Education created a listserv for grantees that would enable them to share information and experiences.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should explore ways to facilitate the sharing of successful practices and lessons learned to help new grantees more quickly and effectively implement their programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2005, Education trained OSDFS program staff who monitor mentoring grants in the use of the Single Audit Clearinghouse database so that relevant single audit findings can be a part of the OSDFS monitoring process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should ensure that the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools uses grantees' single audit reports as part of its monitoring process to take advantage of all monitoring tools that could improve the identification of fiscal and programmatic weaknesses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Education contracted with Abt Associates to conduct a national evaluation of the impact of its federally funded Student Mentoring Program. The evaluation is collecting and will provide systematic data about the effects of student mentoring programs on students' relationships with adults, as well as the impacts that are made on high-risk behaviors, such as substance use, delinquent or criminal activities, and gang involvement. The final report is scheduled for release in September 2008.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should undertake a national study of mentoring program outcomes and in doing so, explore the feasibility of examining the effectiveness of the mentoring program in improving youth outcomes and consider collecting limited, uniform data on the next wave of mentoring grantees that could be used as the basis for such study.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education


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