The Revitalized Tutoring Center: An Embedded Tutoring Center Closes Achievement Gaps by Harnessing the Power of Peer Tutors and Collaborative Teacher Teams

By Koselak, Jeremy | Phi Delta Kappan, February 2017 | Go to article overview

The Revitalized Tutoring Center: An Embedded Tutoring Center Closes Achievement Gaps by Harnessing the Power of Peer Tutors and Collaborative Teacher Teams


Koselak, Jeremy, Phi Delta Kappan


If we really wanted schools to be the great equalizer, much would need to change. The challenges are endless, everything from changing funding mechanisms and recruitment strategies to addressing the needs of educators caught in the political crosshairs of national standards, accountability, overtesting, and a poor preparation system.

Faced with such constraints, as well as with the urgent need to improve student outcomes, we owe it to students--especially to those from nondominant groups--to put existing resources to great use now and employ only high-leverage strategies that promote high levels of learning for all.

One high-leverage, gap-shrinking strategy is rooted in a strong research base (Koselak & Lyall, 2016) and thrives in its very simplicity: an embedded, open-all-day tutoring center that supports collaborative teacher teams by using peer tutors and community volunteers. The revitalized tutoring center provides a wealth of opportunity to students who may otherwise be underserved, creating equitable access and raising expectations for all. Centralizing these resources and providing them during the school day, free to all and targeted to some, helps schools close the opportunity gap without overburdening teachers, schedules, or budgets.

Every facet of a robust peer tutoring model has a high effect size unto itself (Hattie, 2012). When properly leveraged, however, a tutoring center opens doors of opportunity for teachers and schools to bring about meaningful improvements to learning outcomes. The model:

* Creates a diverse coalition of volunteer tutors;

* Enhances collaboration and the work of professional learning communities (PLCs);

* Leverages regular use of common formative assessments;

* Makes standards-referenced and competency-based grading feasible;

* Empowers a tiered system of intervention (such as response to intervention, positive behavior interventions and supports, and a multitiered system of supports);

* Identifies and supports struggling students in a timely and targeted manner throughout the school day;

* Personalizes learning by being flexible and responsive to individual needs;

* Inspires a growth mindset among students, tutors, and faculty;

* Promotes leadership, service learning, and mentorship opportunities to a diverse and often nondominant student population; and

*Thrives in a variety of settings because it's fully customizable.

Schools with robust, embedded tutoring centers focus less on labeling students and pigeonholing them into tiers and more on providing just-in-time supports to ensure students reach mastery on the essential learnings for college- and career- readiness. This level of support also allows schools to accelerate more nondominant students into honors-level coursework, knowing they will be supported along the way. Further, the flexible, targeted, and directive nature of the tutoring center enables staff to tease out the root cause of a student's academic struggle. Whether a student won't do the work or can't do it (or some combination of the two), the director of the tutoring center helps sort out this will-versus-skill dilemma so the team can target supports accordingly. In this model, nothing is left to chance, and students cannot hide from the opportunity.

In addition, by recruiting, training, and supporting a diverse population of peer tutors, the tutoring center encourages students of color and those otherwise at risk to become mentors and leaders to help struggling students. This gives students coming into the center a wide range of tutors to pick from; some may prefer working with tutors from their own racial or ethnic background. Tutors also model and promote the behaviors and habits most likely to lead to success in an academic environment: They put forth effort, challenge themselves, ask questions, learn, and grow, while helping others do the same. …

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