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DHS students find help from NIU

DeKALB – DeKalb High School freshman Marquita Seals went to the school’s media center Thursday afternoon struggling with her biology homework.

When she left 20 minutes later, she had a much more solid grasp of homozygous and heterozygous traits.

“It helped,” Seals said. “I’m just trying to get the hang of the homework.”

This is the end of the second week of the STAR – Student Tutors and Resources – program at DHS, a new initiative between the high school and Northern Illinois University. NIU students provide tutoring during lunch hours all week, as well as after school Monday through Thursday and on Wednesday mornings.

“I thought it would be a good idea for me to find out how to talk to students one-on-one and find out where they’re struggling,” tutor Jaclyn Curtis said. “I think that could help me as a teacher.”

DHS Principal Doug Moeller said the district used to have funding to pay building teachers to tutor after school, but that was no longer available this academic year. DHS psychologist Stacy Bjorkman suggested last fall asking whether any NIU education students could provide tutoring.

The high school contacted Judy Cox-Henderson, coordinator of clinical experiences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at NIU, who created a new tutoring internship course. Twenty-two NIU students are signed up for the class and have committed to tutoring at least three hours a week at DHS in exchange for course credit.

As part of the internship course, NIU students have taken part in three training workshops, the first of which covered tutoring strategies.

“One of the biggest things people make a mistake on if they don’t have training in tutoring is they give answers,” Cox-Henderson said. “So we give them training on that. We work on diagnosing the problem, then giving the support the students need.”

The other sessions were about reading strategies and how to collect data as they tutor so teachers can zero in on some of the struggles high school students are having.

Tutoring is offered in English, math, science, Spanish and history, DHS Assistant Principal Jennie Hueber said. Math is the most in-demand subject, tutor Matt Crocco said. Since it’s one of his areas of expertise, he’s already had quite a bit of student contact, he said.

“It gives me one-on-one experience with kids and lets me know what kind of struggles I might see when I start teaching,” he said. “It’s opening me up to what I can expect.”

Moeller credits Cox-Henderson for developing the class and said the situation is win-win. DHS gets more than 65 hours of free tutoring for students, he said, while NIU students get experience in a high school.

Since the NIU students are only a few years older than the high school students, many DHS students perceive it as peer tutoring, Moeller said, but it’s from college students who have expertise in a given content area.

Plus, it allows DHS to start building relationships with college students early in their academic career, Moeller said. The high school will try to give the tutors preferential placement for clinical observation time, Moeller said, noting it also could lead to placement for student teachers or even a job once they graduate.

The program has gotten off to a slow start, Hueber said, but educators hope students will find out about the program through word of mouth. Cox-Henderson noted that DHS had just finished finals when the tutoring program started. And educators from both schools want to inform parents about the new program.

“If you have to hire a tutor, it’s going to be $20 to $25 an hour,” Cox-Henderson said. “This is a great resource for parents. We are also hoping that as assignments start coming due and tests are upcoming, that teachers will say, ‘You should go to the tutoring center and get some help.’”

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