LCHS is an urban school with the largest and most socioeconomically diverse student population in Spokane Public Schools. It is the oldest high school in the district with a building that dates back to 1902 renovated in 2002 registered on the National Register of Historic Places.
The peer Academic Success Center's peer tutoring program at Lewis & Clark was originally launched through GEAR UP by Suzanne Maguire, a College & Career Support Specialist and former GEAR UP grant Coordinator for the Class of 2017. Currently, the program is being run by Lewis & Clark Academic Success Center Coordinator, Grace Hochstatter, who also teaches biology and chemistry at the high school.
The original purpose of the peer tutoring program through the GEAR UP grant was to create a program that would be sustainable once GEAR UP funds left the building. As both a staff member and parent of LC students, Maguire saw the need for a way for all students to have access to peer tutors. With Lewis & Clark being a highly academically rigorous school with students heavily involved in extracurriculars, the goal was to make it easier for students to seek and receive academic help, and also provide another way for GEAR UP students to learn and give back as volunteers. Although the program currently is no longer able to provide lunch time assistance and focuses more on underclassmen rather than all grades, its overall purpose remains the same, which is to give students the opportunity to help their fellow students thereby building a culture (modeled after the college tutoring center idea) where it is just what students do.
Hotchstatter, the current program coordinator, adds, "there are lots of volunteer options that students can do outside of the school but the peer tutoring program is a way for students to help their peers and improve the LC community. This provides a way for students to give back to their own school. Students feel more comfortable talking and getting help from a fellow student than a teacher. There are teachers available but students don't want to always get help from them. This provides the tutees a way to receive the help they need but in a more comfortable setting."
The peer tutoring program tutors are juniors and seniors, recruited through advertising or teacher nomination. They are required to submit an application for the position and meet the minimum GPA requirement of 3.5 which is occasionally waived if their area of expertise is one where they are above that GPA.
The tutoring program has cycled through a variety of models ranging from requiring after school help and imposing consequences for students who don't follow through, to simply advertising the Academic Success Center.
Who gets tutored simply depends on the need. Generally, there are two ways in which students get tutored. One way is through a counselor's recommendation and the other and more common way in which tutoring happens is when students drop in to receive help from tutors at the Academic Success Center, a place where students come down to work on homework. Tutors often circulate the room and ask who needs help; other times, a tutor gets paired with a student who is struggling with a particular task. Tutoring is available in all subject areas, but mostly math and science.
More recently, the concept of AP study groups (suggested by tutors) has been added to the program, and has brought in a different type of student to the library where the Academic Success Center is housed.
Regarding tutor training, Maguire says, "In the initial stages, we had monthly meetings (about 25 minutes each) where we provided as needed training. For example, at one point, we were having a large number of ELL students attending and the tutors needed a little extra training on how to best work with that student group. We brought in one of our ELL teachers to give some pointers and share some ideas."
And Hochstatter adds, "Last year there was more tutor training during our PAWS time (30 minutes study hall). This year it hasn't been happening as often as I would like due to scheduling challenges."
The program currently uses informal assessment methods to gauge effectiveness. "I keep track of who is tutoring on what day and the amount of hours they have tutored. I ask the students how helpful their tutor was and they give me a response. From there I can provide feedback to the tutor. I watch over the tutors and see the progress they make with the students. A lot of our students that come to our after school program come everyday so it is easy to tell when they are being helped based on the improvement in productivity from that student. We have a sign-in sheet where the tutees will state what class they are working on and what their grade is in that class. That way we are able to track the student's progress in the class to see if there is improvement or not." - Hochstatter.
Tutors have received awards, earned scholarships and jobs as a result of their participation in the program. Additionally, many of them express extreme satisfaction in working to help their peers. Tutees benefit because accessing a peer is sometimes so much more appealing than talking to a grown-up. Some students have shared that if they couldn't access the after school program, they are not sure if they would be passing their classes. Having a regular place to go is meaningful to many students who may not have computer access or academic support at home.
Maguire adds that the peer tutoring program "gives the tutors a sense of value that they can provide this service to their school. It also allows the tutees to feel a sense of accomplishment when they finally get a concept instead of being frustrated for hours trying to understand the material."
The Peer Tutoring Resource Center wishes to thank Suzanne Maguire and Grace Hochstatter for contributing to our peer tutoring program spotlight series and sharing sample materials from their program.
Do you have something interesting to share about your peer tutoring program? Send us a message.