I’ve been reading some of the SBG (standards based grading) post-mortems folks are posting at the end of the year (like this one and this one). One theme (and it’s come up in my graduate classes to) is that the kids who take advantage of opportunities to reflect and revise are the kids who are already doing okay. Those are the motivated kids, the ones who “get school” and know how to earn good grades, through some alchemy of learning and caring and doing their work and taking notes and studying and getting extra help.

Getting the lowest-performing students in for help and re-assessment/revision is a lot harder. It made me think of “Multiplication is for White People”: Raising Standards for Other Peoples’ Children which argues that kids tune out of school to protect themselves from constant messages of being not good/smart enough. And that anything labeled as remedial is another blow to those kids, not to mention they don’t believe they can get better at anything school-related. Plus, as Lisa Henry points out, a lot of kids in struggling schools have work or family responsibilities during out-of-school time.

So here’s my crazy idea. What if we hired or recruited the lowest performing kids to tutor the middle and higher kids? I know, it probably wouldn’t work because kids know who has status and they’d balk at being tutored by a low-status kid. But maybe they could tutor younger kids or something… Anyway it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the kids least celebrated, to work with them closely on learning habits, and they can tutor by asking teacher-questions, like “how do you know?” or “what does this remind you of?” or “what is your best estimate for the answer and why?” and if they get stumped they can go to Khan Academy or something and show a video (which is what typical peer-tutoring often looks like: watch me while I do this slowly and pause me to repeat when you get stuck). The kids they’re tutoring are the ones who “get school” and they can refer back to their notes or ask to pause the video or do all those other good-student habits, and the low-performing tutors help with persistence and eliciting their tutee’s thinking and asking good questions.

Anyone want to try it?