The learning center is staffed by a media specialist and two paraprofessionals. The media specialist is responsible for the smooth functioning of the computers and equipment, for checking in and organizing media resources, for creating student accounts, and for printing reports for students. A paraprofessional oversees tutoring roundtable section of the learning center, checks out copies of tests to students who present an authorization slip from their teacher, and keeps student tutors on task.
Another paraprofessional logs students in and out of the learning center using either an electronic database or a paper-based log book. This assures that anyone present in the learning center at any given time has a specific task to accomplish. Periodic reports generated from the logs records the number of hours clocked by each student, content area studied, whether students were tutored or studying on their own, and the types of resources used. Several educators from various content areas throughout the school are given release time or other incentives to serve as teacher-tutors. At least one teacher-tutor is present at the learning roundtables at any time.
Teachers may also assign students to the tutoring roundtables for a specific number of hours per week to study specific topic areas. Assigned students will bring a slip from their teacher to the paraprofessional in charge of the tutoring roundtables indicating which topics need to be addressed, which homework assignments need to be made up, or which form of the state assessment the student should use for timed practice. Students return the slip signed by the paraprofessional at the front desk who uses information from the logs to verify that they have spent the specified amount of hours receiving tutoring. Similar information will be provided by the teacher for students who are assigned to the computer system. Printed reports will be furnished to the assigning teacher once the student has completed the required task.
Student tutors are responsible for one of three broad content areas in which they have demonstrated competence both by recommendation of their teacher and by their past achievement on standardized tests: mediacy (computer skills such as keyboarding, word processing, spreadsheets, or searching for information); functional literacy (reading and writing skills including a good command of vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and composition); and numeracy (science and mathematics).
If they want to be tutored, students can specify whether they want the teacher-tutor or their peers. They then sit at any roundtable of their choice, either alone or with classmates, and wait until the next tutor with competence in their topic area is free. They may also study quietly at a roundtable without being tutored, or they can work on any of the computers on their own.
When a peer tutor becomes available, he/she asks the tutees whether they have been given specific assignments to work on, or whether they simply have questions about their school work that they would like to discuss with the tutor, alone or with classmates. Tutors will use the same textbooks and workbooks that the students use in class, but may enrich the tutoring session with other materials from the reference shelf that have been successfully used in the past. Tutors will use the same problem-solving strategies as the classroom teachers while enhancing these strategies with insights of their own. The use of grids and diagrams for word problems in mathematics and the use of sentence diagrams for grammar have proven particularly helpful. Students sometimes bring in tests that they have failed, and the tutors will guide them as they work through missed problems so they will understand how to work them out properly on the midterm or final exam.
The test bank contains several forms of the statewide achievement tests accumulated over several years so that students may practice on equivalent forms of the test before taking the required one at the end of the term. Tutors can then help students with sections of the test in which their teacher has indicated that they need improvement.
Many students prefer to be tutored by their own peers because these classmates are in the same situation, faced with the same exams, and are using the same strategies. The empathy between peer tutors and tutees has proven successful in building up an atmosphere of trust and in alleviating students' fears. Plus, when two or three students work together at a roundtable, problems can be addressed from multiple perspectives, and tacit misunderstandings are easier to identify. The tutors' grades go up as well as a result of the extra practice they receive working through problems with their tutees. Tutoring rounds out the expertise of the peer tutors, and they generally perform well in final examinations, future semesters, and on the state assessments.