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A Tutor for Every Child

A Tutor for Every Child

Individual attention from teachers can boost student engagement and increase learning. Is it possible for schools to provide children with more of it?

Michael Salmonowicz | GOOD

When students fail to learn, teachers often face criticism from parents and the public. But should they? Although myriad reforms have been instituted with the intent of improving schools—from merit pay to charter schools to new curricula to longer school days—one thing that seems be assumed is that students should spend every day of their 13 years of elementary and secondary schooling in classrooms with large groups of students. (Even research and reform on smaller class size assume this, as reduced-size classes generally have been no smaller than 15 students.) Is it realistic to think that a majority of students will learn at high levels when they have very little one-on-one time with their teachers?

With some imaginative scheduling, I believe schools could set aside a percentage of time for tutoring. For example, a school could designate one day per week (or per month) as a tutoring day, when students would sign up to meet with one or more teachers individually for a period of time and spend the rest of their day working individually or in small groups with expert tutors. There are countless ways to design such a program, but in any case the point would be to increase students’ access to their teachers’ knowledge, and increase teachers’ access to their students’ questions.

This idea doesn’t show up on any reform agenda that I know of, and people will be able to find plenty of reasons—from cost to logistics to lack of time—not to do it. But if we think about the basic elements of teaching and learning, increasing the amount of one-on-one time students and teachers have together is a logical step to take. If implemented correctly, it very well could lead to more students leaving school each day saying “I feel educated.”

About the Author Michael Salmonowicz: I’m a Teach For America alum and taught high school for three years on the west and south sides of Chicago. I’ve also conducted research on turnaround schools with a team from the University of Virginia, consulted for school districts across the country, and done contract work with New Leaders for New Schools and DonorsChoose.org. My work has been published in Education Week, the Phi Delta Kappan, and a number of academic journals, and I’m a co-author of the book Teachers’ Guide to School Turnarounds (see my publications list at http://sites.google.com/site/salmonowiczpubs). Currently I’m finishing my PhD from UVa’s Curry School of Education. You can e-mail me at michael.salmonowicz@gmail.com.

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