Evaluation of the Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program (J-Z AMP)

The Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program (J-Z AMP) is a program run in three locations throughout Connecticut and funded by the Marie and John Zimmermann Fund. It pairs college sophomores with sixth graders in local schools until the students graduate eighth grade. As a mentor through J-Z AMP, Cathy Zhu ‘17, B.S. Psychology, has a strong connection to the program and chose to evaluate it for her senior thesis. The Introduction of her thesis is below and you can read the full thesis in the attached file.

Over the past three years, I mentored a student named Arianna through a program called the Jones-Zimmerman Academic Mentoring Program (JZAMP). Twice a week, I would make the fifteen-minute walk to Wexler-Grant Community School from Yale’s campus to help her with her homework, lead and participate in enrichment activities for the group of kids as a whole, hang out with her during gym time, and plan field trips among other tasks. I had high expectations for Arianna right away. I expected her to make tangible progress academically, on both her reading and math skills. I also wanted her to see me as someone she could trust and come to with any problems or questions. At the time, I didn’t realize how idealistic it was to place these expectations on young adolescents as an outsider who wasn’t yet entirely familiar with the school and the New Haven community. I set my expectations based on the quality of my educational experience, which I quickly realized was vastly different compared to what I observed at Wexler. I frequently wondered whether the broad goals I had for Arianna were attainable and how I could measure our progress in a balanced way, as well as measure the impact of JZAMP as a whole process.

This research is my attempt to gain insight into these initial musings. To date, the Marie and John Zimmerman Foundation has not collected comprehensive data regarding the efficacy of JZAMP at Yale aside from simple attendance data for mentors and students. For this reason, the current research seeks to fill the dearth of qualitative and quantitative information by gathering data on the program in order to identify successful components and areas for improvement. This research has the added benefit of informing funders of the extent to which their grants have impacted our students and proves valuable for future directions of JZAMP and similar afterschool mentoring programs. The primary focus of the case study is to analyze and evaluate the 2 efficacy of JZAMP through the lens of the mentors’ perspectives working with their students. Moreover, perspectives from administrators at the two schools as well as from Dwight Hall are included to provide a more holistic view of the program. These accounts will situate JZAMP within the larger context of after-school mentoring programs across the United States. Politically, after-school programs continue to exist in a setting of diminished resource availability. Evaluating their efficacy will help to optimize the allocation of resources in the education sphere. The aggregate of these diverse contexts and perspectives will illuminate the answers to the following major research questions:

1. How effective has JZAMP as a process been over the past three years, in terms of students’ academic achievement and social-emotional development?

2. How do mentors evaluate the effectiveness of the process of JZAMP in terms of their personal experiences and observations of student outcomes, and are these metrics aligned with best practices from the educational literature?

3. How does the context of the program, as one situated in New Haven and implemented through Yale, impact its efficacy?

4. What should be the future directions of JZAMP and similar programs with regard to funding, curriculum, and leadership?

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