April 04, 2012 | 08:09 AMBLOOMFIELD — Some of the staff at Star Center Elementary School came up with a way to improve the learning experience by bringing in extra tutors without spending more money.
The tutors are fourth- and fifth-graders. Their students are first- and second-graders. Through the school's new peer tutoring program, the staff members involved said all the students are learning some important lessons during this afterschool program.
"We have other afterschool programs, and one of our students who was chosen as a program tutor had to chose which program he was going to do," Star Center Principal Betsy Schroeder said. "His mother told me the child made a big deal about it, saying he was selected and chosen by (Joint 1 and Badger social worker Tana) Kubly, so he picked this over a different afterschool program. This was a big deal for him."
Kubly and Reading specialist Chiper Tennessen said this is the first year for the peer tutoring program, and so far, the feedback's been good.
It's not just the tutors who appear to be enjoying their new roles. Kubly said one teacher told her their student was excited to meet his tutor.
"These children get really excited to build relationships," Tennessen said.
The program was developed by Kubly, who said she did it to meet a couple different needs.
"We did it to help kids with reading, but it was also a way to do a leadership initiative with our older kids," she said. "Reading is a big goal for the district, but so is character education."
As of February, there were 24 tutors — fourth- and fifth-graders Tennessen said were selected based on teacher recommendations.
"We looked for students who are not only strong readers, but who work well with others," she said.
Kubly said they tried to think outside the box when selecting tutors, not all of whom are straight-A students.
"Not all of the tutors are the children you'd typically expect," she said. "A tutor might be a fourth- or fifth-grader who might be more shy or quiet or reserved. But in this type of program, they do well."
Kubly said they found a "good mix" of tutors. She said the program helps the tutors build leadership skills through the one-on-one interaction with their pupils in "a safer environment."
Tennessen said she has already seen the results.
"I have a student who kind of goes with the flow, but when she shows up for the program, she gets there early and she's well-organized," she said.
Earlier this year, the program went live. Prior, there were three training sessions for the tutors.
According to Kubly, the first two sessions covered what the program is, how to interact with the pupils, how to compliment them and how to handle behavior issues.
Schroeder said tutors and the first- and second-graders were paired in December. She said participation in the afterschool program, which consists of sessions lasting around 45 minutes, required permission from parents.
The end result? Although Kubly said it's too early to tell how the program is affecting children's grades in reading, Tennessen and Schroeder said they have noticed the tutors and their pupils enjoying themselves.
"Teachers have wanted more of their students to participate," Tennessen said.
Schroeder said they are considering expanding the subjects next year, in part because of another surefire sign the peer tutoring program is a success.
"There's never an attendance problem for this program," she said.