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Surprise, Surprise: Study Finds That Relationships Promote Perseverance & Cash Bonuses Do Not

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A new study found that high school seniors paired with college mentors to prepare college applications and financial aid requests resulted in a fifty percent increase in students who actually ended up attending college. They met weekly for a short time, and the high school students also received a $100 bonus. However, they said the money didn’t affect them at all — it was the mentorship that made a difference, and a control group that just received the bonus without the mentorship showed no difference in college attendance.

You can read a good write-up on the research results at Sarah Spark’s Education Week post, Senior Mentors, Not Bonuses, Boost College Enrollment, Study Finds.

This research is obviously interesting to me because of all my work in helping students develop intrinsic motivation.

But I now have an even keener interest in this kind of mentorship research.

Though nothing is definite, it appears that instead of teaching my usual double-block English class of high-needs students next year, I may instead teach two single period twelfth-grade English classes (populated to a certain extent with my ninth-grade students from a few years ago). If that happens, my colleague (and co-author) Katie Hull are planning to do some interesting and regular mentorship activities between my senior classes and her double-block high needs ninth-grade English class.

If it goes through and, as every high school teacher knows, class schedules are constantly in a state of flux, we plan on turning it into a teacher research project tracking attendance, grades, and other data to compare with a control group.

I’m aware of other research detailing the impact some version of mentors can be helpful to older youth, but am definitely on the look-out for more. Please let me know if you know of any….

(Here’s another related post from Annie Murphy Paul)

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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