Asking for Answers

Learning gaps leave beneficial changes to tutoring program

December 10, 2021

Entering Prospect at the beginning of this year, freshman Isabella Smith expected the semester to be challenging. She received straight A’s during her time in middle school and stayed committed to learning for the last two years, even through remote instruction. However, a learning gap was inevitable, and Smith anticipated a need to hit the ground running going into her first year at Prospect, which would simultaneously be her first year of full in-person learning since sixth grade. 

Despite her efforts in the classroom, she ended up scoring lower on one of her first geometry tests than she had hoped. This led to Smith deciding that she needed some assistance. After asking her teacher where she could find some help, she was referred to the Knights Inspired To Teach (KITT) tutoring program. 

Smith said that after one session during her open period with a peer tutor, she saw immediate improvement in her work, which was proven when she received a higher score on her next test. 

“I was very surprised at how well that tutoring had helped me achieve that [score],” Smith said. “I really felt much better [about the workload].” 

As the first semester of fully in-person learning wraps up, teachers and students have been working to ease the transition from remote instruction. As a result of pandemic learning, Associate Principal for Instruction Joyce Kim notes that students have been struggling with shortened attention spans, lost organizational skills and gaps in sequential skills such as in math or foreign language. 

These challenges have been approached by teachers primarily in two ways: the first emphasizes classroom or relationship building, and the second focuses on establishing a traditional curriculum structure with regular test-taking and assignments. 

Kim says that while she prefers the first strategy, she knows that it is more difficult to implement in certain subjects, especially for AP courses that work to prepare students for an end-of-year exam. 

“The teachers desire to prepare the kids to the best of their ability, and … it’s just so complicated,” Kim said. “The kids are trying their best; I feel for them. The teachers are trying their best, [too].”

In the face of all these challenges, however, students and teachers have turned to Prospect’s tutoring programs to give students the assistance they need. The KITT tutoring program has expanded over the years and has now incorporated a program called Every Knight Achieves (EKA), which is a program required in some form in every school in District 214. 

EKA was started last year to help get students who were failing multiple classes back on track and consists of some teachers supervising along with student tutors that work together in “pods.” Kim says that the program has been helpful to many students and encourages an advisory-like environment which allows students to feel more comfortable engaging in learning and receiving help. 

KITT’s Tutoring Facilitator Grace McKay organizes and assigns students who have requested help to a tutor proficient in a specific subject, and since starting at Prospect in August, has already received at least 160 requests for appointments from students. She says while there have been occasional emails from parents asking her to set up tutoring for their child, nearly all of the requests have come directly from students. 

“I’m really excited that students are getting the help that they need and [that] the appointments are efficient,” McKay said. “… It feels great [to help students get help].”

One potential problem that McKay fears students may have is that they are afraid to request academic support because of any stigmas there may be around asking for help in general, but she hopes that students know that reaching out is empowering, even if it can be hard to do. 

KITT President Delaney Nold says that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of students receiving help this year, which she attributes to in-person learning making tutoring seem more accessible to students. During remote instruction, Nold observed a disappointingly low number of students requesting Zoom tutoring, despite the difficulty of having to adjust to the online environment. Luckily, this has been less of an issue this year.

“I have been happily surprised by how many people have taken advantage of [peer tutoring] this year … I would say we have gotten some of the highest numbers we [ever] have in students asking for help,” Nold said. “Seeing the program from [how it’s changed over the past three years has been] really great … because of all the changes that have been made.”

While some, like Smith, may only choose to attend tutoring sessions when they have specific questions or find themselves struggling in a certain subject, freshman Griffin Handler says that he enjoys going to tutoring in order to benefit from an environment where he feels he can focus better. 

During remote instruction in middle school, he didn’t feel the same pressure to complete all of his assignments along with his peers, but now that he is in high school, he said he aims to be more focused especially since he plans on qualifying for the Harper Promise Scholarship. In order to do so, when he gets stuck on a problem on an assignment, instead of moving past it, he goes to KITT to ask for help, even if it’s to make sure that he’s on the right track. 

Other struggles for Handler have stemmed from organizational challenges such as remembering passwords or managing the homework load, but he has found comfort in attending tutoring sessions so that he can complete his assignments without any distractions.

Regardless of how that time at tutoring is spent, Handler and Smith are happy to have the resource available. Nold believes that KITT will serve as a strong opportunity for anyone that seeks it, especially because of the content gaps caused by the pandemic and the changes made to the program in the past two years.

“I feel like [KITT] is a perfect representation of people giving up their time to better other people, to better a community, which I think is a really great thing,” Nold said. “I feel like that’s also why I know that this program will never go away … Especially after the pandemic, I feel like we really all realize how important … it is to give back and to be close to others.”

 

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