During the Student Leadership Team meeting held on Tuesday, September 22, Principal Stanley Teitel said that if mid-year citywide budget cuts arise, per session pay, which is hourly compensation for teachers who stay after school to supervise extracurricular activities and amounts to 102,358 dollars of the school’s budget, would be reduced. However, Teitel insisted that the per session pay that is used to fund Academic Intervention Services (AIS), would not be cut.
AIS allows students in need of additional help to attend subject-specific tutoring sessions after school. These weekly sessions are led by teachers within the school and usually last around one hour. According to Assistant Principal Pupil Services Eleanor Archie, “These teachers do it because they want to, and I presume that they enjoy doing it,” she said. “A lot of the teachers have done it before and they seem to enjoy working with the kids.”
“AIS is effective because the kids work with teachers so that they can answer their questions,” Assistant Principal Mathematics Maryann Ferrara said. “Teachers may see kids from the same class with the same types of questions and cluster them together. So when that teacher answers one question, he or she may be answering the question of many students.”
Last fall, in order to further utilize the tutoring service to help lessen the number of failing students, Teitel implemented a new policy mandating all students failing a major class to attend AIS tutoring. Immediately after the new policy was put into action, the number of failing students, coupled with the lack of space available in a single classroom, caused many sessions to be filled to capacity. According to the December 20, 2008, Spectator article “As More Students Attend Sessions, AIS Tutoring Feels Strain,” a total of 233 students attended math tutoring, 304 attended science, and 61 attended social studies in November 2008.
Recently, however, the numbers have dropped. Of 212 students surveyed by The Spectator on Tuesday, October 13, none of the students who had been mandated to attend AIS sessions actually went.
According to social studies teacher Brenda Garcia, who leads the history AIS sessions, in general, the students who do not attend AIS despite being mandated to “may be too busy with extracurricular activities,” she said. In addition, Garcia said that a majority of the students who attend tutoring are those who don’t need it and only want to review information for a test.
“AIS sessions are good for students who need a little review before a test, but are already doing well,” junior Ramkumar Balasubramanyan said. “I don’t know how effective they are for students who are failing.”
Furthermore, according to the Spectator survey, 71 of the 212 students surveyed, or 33.5 percent, did not even know what AIS is. Of the 141 students who did know, 48 percent of them had ever attended a session. Although the number of attendees at AIS sessions will most likely increase by the end of the term, this is still alarming to school administrators.
“When the turnout is really low, it concerns me,” Teitel said. “I don’t understand why the student body is not availing itself of this free service.”
Students who have attended sessions, however, said that they were generally helpful. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest, students on average said that the helpfulness of AIS was approximately a 3.5.
“AIS is a great way to perform better in your classes,” said junior Jensen Cheong, who attended AIS tutoring for French. “AIS provides review and a smaller learning environment. It also isn’t as fast-paced as regular classes. You go at your own pace.”
This is not the case for all sessions, however, as certain ones are more crowded than others. As a result, students in the more crowded sessions fail to receive comprehensive help.
To solve this problem, some of the overcrowded sessions, specifically those in math, are being assisted by tutors from ARISTA, Stuyveant’s Chapter of the National Honor Society. In these sessions, each ARISTA tutor is paired with one student to provide him or her with additional one-on-one help. The supervising teacher sits at the front of the room and assists students with questions their ARISTA tutor could not answer.
ARISTA tutors also help with the variety of topics that students ask to review during AIS sessions. According to computer science teacher JonAlf Dyrland-Weaver, an additional tutor is effective to have because “if I have students from different classes with different questions, [the tutor] is around to give assistance so students aren’t waiting too long,” he said.
“In mathematics, we have four to five different subjects in the same room. On days when many students show up it’s very difficult for the teacher to give students what they need,” Ferrara said. “To compensate for this, we’ve asked ARISTA tutors to help in the rooms.”
“AIS teachers [often] don’t have the time to tutor students one-on-one,” senior and ARISTA co-Vice President of Tutoring Shirley Xu said. “What ARISTA allows is for students to get one-on-one peer tutoring and feel more comfortable with the situation.”
Not all sessions, however, are provided with ARISTA tutors, due to a lack of available members. As a result, sessions with more tutors are often one-on-one, whereas the others are done in lecture form. This disparity in learning environments makes certain sessions more effective than others.
“I attended AIS twice last year, but I did not find it to be helpful,” sophomore Cleo Nevakivi-Callanan said. “The teachers did not do a good job of explaining the concepts that I didn’t understand. The session was also more like a lecture than a tutoring session, so none of the questions my friends and I wanted to ask were answered.”
Cheong, however, attributed this disparity to “each teacher [having his] own approach,” he said. “Some teachers prefer for students to ask questions and go over that while other teachers quickly re-teach the previous week’s topics. It depends on the subject, too.”
According to junior Rohan Shah the effectiveness of AIS sessions, “completely depends on the teacher [leading] them,” he said. “Sometimes you get a good teacher and sometimes you don’t.”
“The best way to improve it would be if each room were devoted to only one subject, [but] we don’t have the funds to do that right now,” Ferrara said.
Teitel, however, believed that the onus lies with the students.
“As in all cases, it has to do with whether or not the student takes it seriously,” Teitel said. “We certainly try to provide students with an opportunity to get additional help [...] For the most part it’s up to the student to take advantage of what I’ll call this gift.”