This post highlights Brett D'Errico's work in shaping peer tutoring programs in California's Tustin Unified School District by taking a closer look at Foothill High School's Knights for Knowledge peer tutoring program. Established in the 2017-2018 school year, Dr. D'Errico helped create this program while he was an Assistant Principal at Foothill. What began as an after-school tutoring session with students from Cal State Fullerton became a school-wide program involving the best and brightest of Foothill High School. D'Errico has also expanded some elements of this peer tutoring program at Hewes Middle School and Pioneer Middle School where he's currently the principal.
Without the pressure of a conventional classroom setting, peer tutoring provides one-on-one instruction with a fellow Knight. In addition to the aim of growing more prominently in the Foothill academic environment and helping more students at other schools such as Hewes Middle School, one of the main goals of Knights for Knowledge is to provide the resources for all Foothill students to succeed in all their classes. Successful students may gain insight and experience by sharing their knowledge with other knights.
The program is equipped with a leadership team made up of peer tutors and a staff member who serves as an advisor. The leadership team is known as the Knights for Knowledge board members which consists of the advisor, president, vice president, marketing and scheduling directors, and the directors' support team. The board helps monitor the peer tutors and handles all operations of KfK. They are also considered the lead for the days that they are assigned to tutor. They help get the stations ready, supply tutors with their shirts, and can clarify or answer any questions. The marketing leads create flyers, shirts, and help with peer tutor recruiting at the beginning of the year while the scheduling team assists with designing a tutoring schedule after tutors have been selected to participate in the program.
The Knights for Knowledge program typically has between 40-50 peer tutors annually and are trained by AVID tutors. AVID tutors are hired adults who are paid. They are often future educators / teachers as KfK tutors are fellow students. At the beginning of the year, the marketing team engages in peer tutor recruiting efforts by going around to all classes and giving presentations. Prospective tutors complete a Google form application with some background information, academic preferences and availability. Then the board meets to decide who is selected and for what days, and makes effort to include as many students as possible. D'Errico considers the fact that the program gives peer tutors the opportunity to earn volunteer hours for both CSF (California Scholarship Federation) and NHS (National Honors Society) while providing value to the school through extra tutoring support, to be a win-win. He also adds, "I personally have the belief that all students (no matter their background) deserve access to tutoring / additional support if they want it. This service allows us to offer that to every student that attends FHS."
Tutoring is offered in the library and is broken up by subject. For example, each subject has a designated table (Math table, English table, etc.) with an assigned tutor who is well-versed in that particular subject. Tutors wear specific t-shirts that make them easily identifiable, and move around helping students who need assistance with their work while ensuring tutees are understanding the content.
Running a successful peer tutoring program has its own unique challenges. D'Errico states that the most difficult aspect of running the program is the launch each year. "We have students applying for board positions the previous school year (April / May). Pulling together the board, marketing tools, scheduling, and recruiting all happens in August and is a lot of work. Once the framework is built out however, it runs pretty smoothly." The program's effectiveness is evaluated by tracking daily number of attendees and usage rates, collecting student testimonials, and monitoring their academic growth via grades.
At Pioneer Middle School where D'Errico presently serves as principal, the peer tutoring program is in its first year of implementation and still being developed. Although it currently does not have a board with elected positions set up, the program already bears some similarities to Knights for Knowledge, with CJSF students volunteering to serve as peer tutors, and tutoring in various subjects available daily at the library. D'Errico advices educators looking to recruit peer tutors for their programs to "tap into your volunteerism groups (i.e. CSF, NHS, boys and girls scouts, etc.) and allow students to complete this philanthropy work for hours within your school community. We keep track of who has served and I sign off the hours for them." He believes that giving students the opportunity to volunteer as peer tutors helps foster a sense of belonging, helpfulness, and supportive culture.
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