A youth violence-reduction mentoring program for trouble-plagued schools in urban centers has contributed to improved student behavior and performance at high-risk middle and high schools in Wisconsin and Virginia, according to a new Baylor University case study.
The "Violence-Free Zone" is the national model of mentoring students in areas with high levels of crime and violence. The mentoring program is designed to address behaviors that result in truancies, suspensions, violent incidents, involvement in drugs and gangs and poor academic performance in public middle and high schools.
Four evaluations of VFZ programs conducted between 2007 and 2013 show positive impact, including a unique return-on-investment (ROI) analysis of a VFZ high school in Milwaukee, according to study leaders Byron Johnson, Ph.D., director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior in Baylor's Institute for Studies of Religion, and William Wubbenhorst, non-resident fellow at Baylor and scholar in faith-based and community initiatives.
The case study evaluates improvements at two VFZ high schools in Richmond, as well as the impact of the Milwaukee VFZ program on youths mentored by adults who work full time in the schools as hall and cafeteria monitors and role models. They work closely with safety officers, teachers and counselors.
Among the key findings: 1. A four-year study (academic years 2007 to 2010) of the VFZ Program in Milwaukee's School for Career and Technical Education showed a: • 44 percent reduction in the average number of behavioral incidents per VFZ student per month • 79 percent reduction in average number of suspension days per VFZ student per month • 23 percent reduction in truancy incidents per VFZ student per month • 9.3 percent increase in GPA per VFZ student • 24 percent higher rate of graduation from high school than non-VFZ students • 8 percent higher college enrollment rate (as compared to the Wisconsin state level) • 64 percent increase in the number of students reporting a more positive school climate (as compared to the year prior to the VFZ program start)
2. A Return-On Investment Analysis of the Milwaukee school's program showed an estimated lifetime savings of $8.32 for every $1 invested in the VFZ program, based on reduced administrative costs from fewer suspensions; reduced police costs from service calls; reduced juvenile detention costs; lower truancy rates; savings from reduced number of auto thefts within 1,000 feet of the school; savings from reductions of such high-risk behaviors as drinking, violence against intimate partners or violence against oneself; and projected increases in lifetime earning associated with higher high school graduation and college enrollment rates.
3. A four-year study (from academic years 2009-2012) of overall school-level trends of the VFZ program in Richmond showed a: • 44 percent reduction in the average number of suspensions per student • 27 percent reduction in the average number of suspension days per student • 18 percent increase in the average grade point average
4. A one-year study (academic year 2013-14) of VFZ students in three middle schools and eight high schools in Milwaukee showed a: • 7 percent decrease in the average number of non-violent incidents per VFZ student per month • 31 percent decrease in the average number of violent incidents per VFZ student per month.
The Milwaukee Violence-Free Zone program was created and is directed by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Neighborhood Enterprise and implemented in Milwaukee schools by CNE's community partners, Running Rebels Community Organization and the Milwaukee Christian Center. The Richmond program was operated in partnership with the Richmond Outreach Church.
"The VFZ initiative not only is measurably effective in reducing violence, it is cost-effective," said CNE President Robert L. Woodson. "It produces saving to the community by avoiding court and incarceration costs and by promoting attendance and academic achievement. It makes it possible for teachers to teach and students to learn." For more information about the Multi-State Mentoring Research study, visit http://www.cneonline.org/
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