By and reprinted from MENTOR
The National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) recently announced the release of its Voluntary Quality Standards, a set of standards designed for use by schools, districts, state education agencies, youth-serving organizations, foundations, community groups, and others to better understand essential components of quality, set goals as part of existing or emerging continuous improvement processes, set goals when designing new programs, and consider prospective partners.
As a National Technical Assistance Lead for NPSS, MENTOR created a set of standards designed to ensure mentoring programs are safe, effective, and productive for all involved. These standards represent an intersection of the Elements of Effective Practice for Mentoring™ and NPSS’ Voluntary Quality Standards Framework and are rooted in research and best practices within the field.
While this framework focuses specifically on mentorship programs, the guidelines can apply to a wide variety of settings serving young people, including educational environments. Tracy Terranova, MENTOR’s Director of Education Partnerships, notes, “As an educator, you’re always wondering whether the strategies you’re using are effective for your students and looking for more ways to support students. Many of the elements of the Voluntary Quality Standards for Mentoring can be applied to school settings, even if the terminology varies slightly from that typically used by educators.”
The standards focus on three key areas:
Mentoring programs should implement clear, culturally responsive recruitment and hiring processes. They should seek for staff and volunteers to reflect the communities they serve, meet safety requirements for working directly with young people, and have skill sets and mindsets that complement their roles. If this process is effective, the program will have a diverse group of volunteers, staff, and program coordinators who possess the content knowledge and skill sets to be effective mentors on an individual basis and in group settings.
The importance of training begins before a staff member or volunteer even begins working with young people. These individuals should receive high-quality onboarding and training that is tailored to their role and to program and partnership requirements.
Coaching, training, and feedback must remain a part of their role for the duration of their service. Staff and volunteers should receive ongoing support consisting of (but not limited to) observation, role-specific coaching, two-way feedback, and ongoing professional development that is specific and appropriately sequenced to their role.
Placement in Programs
These standards should be applied to programs that have key program components rooted in six evidence-based standards from the EEPM that are intended to be applicable across almost every type of youth mentoring program. In addition to the aforementioned recruitment, screening, and training processes, the evidence-based standards require that mentoring relationships are initiated using strategies likely to increase the odds that mentoring relationships will endure and be effective; that programs monitor mentoring relationship milestones and child safety and provide support for matches through ongoing advice, problem-solving, training, and access to resources for the duration of each relationship; and that programs facilitate bringing the mentoring relationship to closure in ways that affirm the contributions of the mentor and mentee.
In addition, the standards include key components that are standard across all areas of the Voluntary Quality Standards:
- Strong student and family connections. This includes a defined and equitable approach to identify, engage, and retain students with particular attention paid to reducing barriers to participation, an intentional strategy and supporting systems to build strong, positive relationships between students and adults, and regular engagement with caregivers.
- A series of essential conditions including a commitment to educational equity and social justice, clearly defined leadership roles and professional development opportunities for leaders, intentional integration within schools and communities, and data systems that integrate processes that lead to ongoing improvement and effectiveness while protecting student and school data.
MENTOR has long advocated for the importance of standards in mentoring. For years, The National Quality Mentoring System (NQMS) has played a key role in advancing standards for mentoring programs around the country. The NQMS provides a structured, systematic process for assessing the quality of a mentoring program’s practices in alignment with the EEPM and is comprised of five key components:
- A self-assessment survey completed by the mentoring program, with questions about program operations, management and evaluation.
- A review and summary response prepared by the program’s local MENTOR Affiliate.
- An assessment review meeting between the MENTOR Affiliate and the mentoring program.
- The development of goals and a work plan for the program to make quality improvements with the help of training and support provided by the MENTOR Affiliate.
- National and/or local recognition of the program upon satisfactory engagement in the quality assessment and improvement process.
The NQMS provides a meaningful indicator of quality for youth mentoring programs and lends credibility to individual programs to attract resources and support. It also helps families and volunteers feel confident about participating in a mentoring program that meets national quality standards. By assisting mentoring programs across the country in applying an evidence-based set of standards to their own work, MENTOR is able to increase both the number of youth served by mentoring programs and the quality of said programs.
NPSS’ Voluntary Quality Standards will build upon existing work in the field such as the NQMS and will provide yet another resource for mentoring programs and educators to ensure their work is as effective as possible in lifting up and supporting young people. To view the full Voluntary Quality Standards, please click here.
To access the post about this discussion, please click here.