The Peer Tutoring program at Arvada High School in Arvada, Colorado began just this 2016-2017 school year. The program was developed in order to target those students in our school who are failing one or more classes due to missing assignments. The majority of those whom we tutor are 9th graders because we can easily access them during their Study Hall, and only 9th graders have a mandatory Study Hall class. We are open to walk-ins and have also tutored students in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades who were teacher-directed to the Learning Lab.
Last year, we had 253 9th graders and 108 of those students had an F in one or more classes. We have identified a level of apathy around completing missing work or making up work from absences. Our adopted philosophy is “you may not care, but we do.” The idea is that students cannot hide during the school day. When they are failing, the tutors either identify them through a report and seek them out during their study hall, or the teacher whose class is being failed, identifies them as a student who needs a tutor session and that teacher takes the initiative to request a pick-up and session.
Our tutors have an elective class called Tutoring Practicum. There is one Tutoring Practicum class every class period of the day with between 3-5 tutors.The tutors come in, retrieve slips for students who are scheduled during their class period, go to the tutee’s Study Hall to pick them up, and bring him/her back to the library. The slip outlines the work that needs to be done. We have completed over 145 tutoring sessions this year with the help of 28 daily tutors.
Our program has been very effective. We do not have baseline data for this point in past school years, but based on teacher feedback and overall grade improvement, our program is making a difference. We believe that the success attained by the tutor/tutee meeting can be explained by the premise that the peer dynamic is unique and provides a supportive environment that both encourages engagement and progress. The tutors report that students oftentimes know how to do the work and work cooperatively with them during the session to complete it. They seem to just need the prompting, a bit of “touching base” along the way, and the physical presence of a tutor. There are other times, as well, when our tutors reinforce math concepts, help with editing writing, or improve reading comprehension also. Our strategies are based on breaking down the learning or review process into parts. These strategies allow tutors with a range of academic levels to be successful in their role.
Most of our success has been measured by feedback from teachers, but also from our data tracking of students who have completed work and who, of that pool, still have a failing grade. We have a progress spreadsheet tracking the data, and we will have more conclusive statistics at the end of the fall semester. Our data, so far, looks great and very promising.
The biggest challenge we have faced is absenteeism. We cannot tutor some of our teacher-directed tutees because they are absent most days of the week. We have had very few minor challenges of students who will not cooperate and refuse to work. There have also been, on occasion, situations where neither the tutor, nor the student, is clear on the assignment. These have taught us to offer different modes of preparation or to increase communication with teachers.
Training Program and Operations
At the beginning of the school year, I facilitated a three-week training program from “Building Student Success: A Training Workbook For Tutors & Instructional Aides” which I purchased from its creator, Dana Monaghan at www.teachtutors.com. The program was very helpful, and although I adapted a few of the lessons, the ideas provided the structure for our training. Since the training, the tutors have been self-directed and require little support from me. This allows me to fulfill my title role of Digital Teacher Librarian here in the library where our “Learning Lab” operates.
Heather Anderson, M.A., M.Ed. is a first-year Digital Teacher Librarian at Arvada High School and former English teacher.