In the late 1970s, the R.A.D. Schwartz Foundation initiated a peer tutoring program in the Oakland Unified School District (California) and continued to support this program for twelve years. The program eventually served more than 30 schools and regularly brought together educators, civic leaders, and parents for learning conferences. Robert A.D. Schwartz wanted to develop a practice for building good citizenship among students while improving academic outcomes, a vision he shared with former Oakland Schools Superintendent Marcus A. Foster. “We wanted to educate and build good citizens,” said Schwartz. The program built self-esteem among tutors as well as tutees, and was successful with diverse populations, including English Language Learners.
Based on the early success of this peer tutoring program and the current school reform movement in Oakland focusing on the whole child, the Schwartz Foundation became interested in establishing a permanent resource for teachers, administrators, after school practitioners, parents, and anyone else interested in using peer tutoring as an instructional strategy. In 2012, the Schwartz Foundation asked Urban Strategies Council (the Council) to initiate an inquiry process among Oakland schools, including public, charter, parochial and independent schools, to determine interest in such a resource and to receive advice on its development.
The Council convened an Advisory Board and produced a report documenting research establishing the success of this evidence-based practice in schools across the United States. It found that teachers and schools in Oakland were using at least three peer tutoring delivery models to support students at grade level, below grade level, and with social-emotional challenges. These included delivery cross-age within schools, same-age within classrooms, and cross-age in after school programs.
Based on the report and the recommendations of the Advisory Board, the Schwartz Foundation decided to develop an online Peer Tutoring Resource Center to serve anyone interested in peer tutoring. The Resource Center includes a research library, database of classroom and program materials, and a forum for practitioners to share challenges and successes. The Peer Tutoring Resource Center website was launched in 2013 with the aim of creating and sustaining a large network of educators interested in applying peer tutoring strategies as an engaging and effective support for their students.