by Marc Wheeler & Salem Valentino, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
In these days of information overload it is especially important to find new ways to translate research and evaluation evidence for general audiences. As many people in the mentoring community know, it’s often difficult to translate findings for the public while remaining true to the data.We are excited to be releasing the 2013 report detailing findings from our nationwide Youth Outcomes Survey (YOS) data this week. In this year’s report, we’ve used infographics to visualize our outcomes as well as how our outcomes link to long-term success for our Littles.
Infographics are tools that use graphic design to translate data into easily digestible images. Infographics can be especially helpful in taking complex ideas and simplifying them into a visual representation that can be understood on both an intellectual and emotional level (see example from the YOS Report, below).
In the 2013 Youth Outcomes Report, we looked at pre- and post-test survey data collected from our Littles between July 2010 and June 2012. We used this data to answer four evaluation questions, with the following findings:
1) How do mentored youth compare to similar, same-aged youth who have not been mentored?
Using a technique called propensity score matching, we took post-test surveys from matched Littles and paired them up with similar youth who only had pre-test surveys to create a quasi-experimental design. We found positive differences for matched youth across a breadth of youth outcome areas, in both community-based (CB) and school-based (SB) matches. While elementary- and high-school youth also benefited, positive differences were found across all seven outcome measures in middle-school youth.
2) Do youth improve after one year (or school year) of mentoring?
Looking at youth who had both pre- and post-test surveys completed, we found improvements spanning a number of youth outcome areas, in both community-based and school-based matches. Across both programs, a large majority (64% in CB and 77% in SB) of youth either showed improvement or maintenance across six of the seven outcome areas.
3) Do youth in matches for multiple years improve, stay the same, or decline?
Looking at those matches who had a pre-test survey as well as two years of follow-up surveys, we found that matches that lasted two years continued to maintain the same levels of positive outcomes found at year one and even made additional statistically significant improvements in Social Acceptance and Attitudes Toward Risky Behaviors (CB) or Educational Expectations (SB) at year two.
4) Do youth in two-year matches have significantly improved outcomes compared to youth in one-year matches?
When we compared youth in matches lasting two years to matches that had reached the one-year mark, we found that youth in two-year matches appeared to be doing better in terms of Social Acceptance than one-year matches. In addition, school-based matches still together after two school years showed greater gains in Scholastic Competence, Parental Trust, and Special Adult Relationships than those reported by youth after one school year.
Overall, we are heartened by these findings, which mirror previous studies suggesting that Big Brothers Big Sisters programs have broad effects across a number of youth outcomes. For complete information about our findings (including data tables and figures contained in the report’s appendices) and to see more infographics contained in the report, please download a copy of the complete report here .
Infographics designed by: Elissa Schloesser, Visual Voice (http://myvisualvoice.com)