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Title

Tutoring for Early College

How do you handle academic support more broadly, for college classes taught in high schools?

August 20, 2017
 
 

This one is a little inside-baseball, but for those of us who live this stuff, it’s a real issue.

How do you handle tutoring, and academic support more broadly, for college classes taught in high schools?

For high school students taking classes on the college campus, it’s relatively straightforward: they have access to the same tutoring centers as everyone else. And every student, regardless of location, has access to online tutoring. As one superintendent explained to me, part of the appeal of e-tutoring for this population is that some students who need tutoring are too proud to let themselves be seen getting it. E-tutoring offers the option of getting help when nobody is looking, so the fear of showing weakness doesn’t get in the way.

But that still relies on a non-trivial level of initiative, as well as good broadband access at home. In other words, it’s probably helpful for some students, but many either can’t or won’t use it. For them, we need other solutions.

One answer is for the college to provide “wrap-around” support. In practice, this might mean paying professional tutors to go to the high school at set times during the week to provide on-site support. Depending on context, that might mean being something like a t.a., or it might mean something closer to group review sessions. 

Wrap-around support has a lot going for it.  It meets students where they are -- literally -- and if it’s done right, it gets around the “showing weakness” objection simply by being unavoidable. But it can be expensive at scale, the logistics are daunting, and we have only so many personnel.  Although the number of places where we’re teaching classes is growing, our staff isn’t, and that trend doesn’t appear likely to reverse anytime soon.  (I’d be happy to be proved wrong on this point.) It’s a lovely and effective answer when it’s sustainable, but I can see the demand outpacing the supply quickly. As with many “both/and” strategies, it assumes infinite resources, and that assumption just isn’t valid.

(That raises a larger issue of funding for early college high school programs, but that’s another post.)

Peer tutoring is a cost-effective and educationally effective solution on the main campus, but it doesn’t necessarily translate well to high schools.  

MOOCs crashed and burned as replacements for entire courses, but the Khan Academy has shown promise in adapting the MOOC concept to structured review. The trick there is twofold. First, you have to get the student to try it. And second, you need someone to guide the student to the right lessons.  For certain kinds of material, short videos can be just the thing. In doing math, for instance, sometimes I didn’t need an entire new course from the ground up; I just needed clarification on one step or one idea. Short videos can work well for that, especially since they don’t get snippy if you rewatch them six times. For something like writing, though, you’re likelier to need feedback on a particular piece of work.  

I know that we aren’t the only college teaching classes in high schools. In fact, there’s an entire national organization (NACEP) dedicated to just such partnerships. I’m guessing that others out there have faced similar dilemmas, and some may have found reasonably practical, transferable solutions.

So I’ll put it out to my wise and worldly readers.  Is there an effective, affordable, scalable way to provide academic support for courses offered in high schools?

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