The Case for School Peer Support and Peer Mentor Programs

A Comprehensive Evaluation of Peer Programs

In 2001 the California Association of Peer Programs released the findings from their survey of approximately 121 Californian Middle and High Schools where a variety of Peer programs had been operating for between two and 10 years. From my experiences working in this field during the past thirty years, I can attest to the accuracy of these findings. Some points made in their findings included:

Why are Peer Programs effective?

  • Young people have tremendous influence over other young people.
  • Young people are natural helpers.
  • Young people are their own best resource and can be used to augment the insufficient adult resources on most school campuses.
  • Trained young people who augment school support services are a cost-effective resource.
  • Young people who have mastered life-skills were successful at life.

Some important conclusions from the survey of these Peer Programs which augmented school counseling services:

  • The ratio of female peer program members to their male counterparts is almost 2 to 1 at the Middle school level and that ratio increases to almost 4 to 1 by High school.
  • 82% of Middle and High school peer program members believed their programs were effective.
  • Almost 98% of Middle and High school peer program members would recommend peer program membership to other students.
  • Over 70% of the participants felt that their involvement in the programs had helped them at school and at home.
  • 73% of participants felt the services offered by their peer programs were useful.
  • 42% of Middle school program participants and 21% of High school participants reported a significant improvement in academic achievement.
  • Program participants indicated improvement in self-esteem and their connectedness to the school and community as a result of participating in peer programs. (It is a well researched fact that when students feel good about themselves and feel connected to the school, they perform better)
  • Participants reported a reduction in fighting, hate crimes and vandalism in their schools where conflict resolution programs were run.
  • Participants also reported an improvement in their ability to peacefully resolve conflicts.
  • Participants reported a more cooperative spirit among students and a more tolerant attitude towards ethnic groups different from their own.
  • Where schools ran programs with a mentoring and/or personal support component, the majority of participants reported an improvement in students? abilities to solve their own problems, as well as a reduction in incidents of suicide attempts, smoking and substance abuse.

Overall Conclusion:

Creating a safe school where students are supported to make healthy decisions encourages academic achievement and future employability. School climate is more positive in schools where peer programs flourish. Investing financial, school and community resources in a peer program is a long-term investment in the academic, personal/social and career development of our students and the continued well-being and prosperity of our society.

Adapted from Source Materials: Copyright: The Californian Association of Peer Programs

Vertical Tutoring

I would also suggest that visionary principals and teachers  will move peer support to a totally different level when they introduce a Vertical Tutoring System in their schools, as this builds a community within a school environment and includes all parents and other non-teacher employees in a school. You can download a free ebook about all this here.