Academic Support Center Changes Tutoring Policy

The Academic Support Center (ASC) has begun notifying faculty members when a student approaches the Center for assistance, ending the Academy’s long standing practice of allowing students to keep their use of educational support services confidential. Under the terms of the new plan, once a student requests academic help in a particular class, the ASC will send an email to the teacher of the course, the student’s academic advisor, and his or her house counselor. According to Director of Academic Support Patricia Davidson, this policy change has come not as a response to any specific discrepancies within the Academy’s Peer Tutoring system, but rather as a way to ensure that the “communication loop” is completed between faculty members and students. Ms. Davison said, “It is very helpful for all parties involved to be aware of any support plan which is put in place for a student.” Ms. Davison explained, “[Students] who are experiencing difficulty with a course will have discussed [the problem] with their teacher, advisor, and house counselor, but this is not always the case.” She also noted that faculty members who become aware that a student is struggling in a class often base their evaluation of that student’s performance on their willingness to seek out assistance, whether in the form of conference period discussions, individual peer tutors, or department-organized study halls. With the advent of the ASC’s new policy, it has become much easier to verify that a student has put in extra effort outside of the classroom. “Thus far, we have been overwhelmed by the positive response we have received from the faculty,” Ms. Davidson remarked. “They appreciate knowing which of their advisees and students are taking the initiative to seek tutoring help.” Associate Dean of Students and Academic Advisor ’Cilla Bonney-Smith noted her content with the new policy, “Sometimes I make suggestions about what students should do, but I really never know if they have taken my advice. It has been a really nice change to know when they have.” According to Ms. Davison, student response to the change has also been positive and that there have been no formal negative responses to the implementation of the new policy, as of yet. Nina Beinart ’05, who is currently being tutored in Chemistry, weighed in, “I really don’t see why you wouldn’t want your teachers to know [about having a tutor]. It is really not something I would want to hide.” With approximately a third of the student body participating in its programs, the ASC has become an integral tool for students struggling with the demanding course work that many Andover classes impose on their students. Despite Ms. Davison’s caution to students that the services of the ASC should only be used to “supplement the academic expertise and assistance that classroom teachers can provide,” the center has proven to be a vital source of aid for dozens of Phillips Academy students. Located on the upper level of Graham House, the ASC involves itself mainly with organizing the Academy’s peer tutoring program and providing professional one-on-one study skills help. Assistance for disabled students is also handled through the office. In the case of academic support, the avenue a student chooses to improve their performance is usually left to their own discretion. Although the peer tutoring system is based more on a subject-specific, content-based review, the three ASC faculty members also provide a wide range of services, including sessions focusing on time-management, organization, effective note-taking techniques, test taking tips, and effective textbook reading strategies. While the ASC faculty may sometimes choose to employ a specific course to demonstrate pertinent skills, they are not usually available for content-specific extra help. To date, 180 PA students have requested peer-tutoring assignments for the Winter term, and 93 students have gone to Graham House to fine-tune their study skills with ASC faculty.