Berkeley High School Recommendations

Honors Math Tutoring Requirement

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My child, a freshman in Honors Geometry, is being required by the BHS math department to devote two hours to tutoring. My senior in AP Statistics has a six hour requirement. I would like to know what is behind this requirement. (I think that this requirement is per grading period....)

Is the idea that they will learn from tutoring others? Then, wouldn't kids in regular math also learn from tutoring others? Are we trying to teach the value of community service? Then, wouldn't serving dinner at the men's homeless shelter across the street also instill this value? And don't we want ALL Berkeley High kids to partake in giving back to their community? Do we want them to realize that they are blessed with academic talent or ambition? What about kids who are athletically or musically or linguistically gifted?

I hesitate to voice this concern since I feel like it might make me appear stingy or whiny and I feel our family does give back a fair amount to the community. However, my kids are both busy with a fall sport and this requirement (esp. since it requires a 'supervised' location, e.g. King or Cragmont after-school tutoring or lunch time tutoring at BHS) is difficult to fulfill and I frankly feel that they are being singled out because they are in accelerated math classes.

Any thoughts out there? Anonymous


I'm really glad someone else has raised this issue. When I first learned of this two years ago I tried to voice my concerns but there was no e-tree and I was told I was the only one and "what was my problem."

My daughter was in honors math starting with Honors Geometry six years ago (she has since graduated) but at that time there was no tutoring requirement or her teacher chose to ignore it. When she reached Senior year she took AP Calculus and AP Statistics and each of her math teachers required tutoring. If you think your child is busy now, just wait until senior year when they are doing everything possible to get into college and spending hours actually filling out applications. What was particularly infuriating was that the requirements of the two teachers were different and the tutoring that satisfied one of them didn't satisfy the other. (I believe she was expected to volunteer 12 hours per grading period for these two classes.) She went to the Chairman of the Math department and tried to get him to ask the teachers to accept the same hours and he told her that he had no control over what rules they had set so she had to satisfy each requirement separately. (When I called him he told me the same thing--he put it back on her to get one of them to change their rules.) When your child is up until 1 AM doing her homework every night, you wonder if this requirement is a bit misguided.

I was particularly upset that the tutoring had to be in math and had to be at Berkeley High (that was what one of the teachers required). The math tutoring that she did at King Middle School wasn't acceptable. Nor was the volunteer teaching on the use of the internet at the library. So, at the end of each grading period there were all these kids looking around for people to tutor and many would sit in rooms with nothing to do, waiting for someone to need math tutoring. Several times she tutored in a different subject because that was what was needed. She had to get a teacher to agree to sign off that it was math tutoring because her math teacher was so inflexible.

As with so many other things at Berkeley High I believe that this requirement was originally well-intentioned but because there is so administrative oversight it has become distorted and ineffective. It's been reduced to merely another hoop the kids have to jump through. Why not require some community service of everyone? And why not in an area of the student's choice? It would be helpful if someone in the administration actually looked at this and made it into something positive.

Anonymous


My kids have never taken any AP classes at BHS but the tutoring requirement doesn't sound fair. It sounds like one of two things:

1) the school is looking for cheap labor, or
2) the bright kids are being punished for the privilege of taking challenging classes

Is anyone actually benefiting from the tutoring requirement? If there is such a great need for tutors, why are we relying on overworked high school kids? Shouldn't we be hiring real tutors? And if they are not needed, then why are we forcing them to tutor? These are the kids that can least afford the spare time, and it truly does sound like punishment.

Anonymous


I really don't appreciate the tutoring either. But, if they consider it punishment for taking AP classes, I am at least glad they offer the classes. I would almost be willing to suggest they could get more tutoring if they offered AP History, AP Art and AP Psychology. Seems like a power trip to me. Anonymous
Math Department Chair Laura Leventer responds to questions about the Community Service requirement in AP and Honors Math classes:

The community service requirement serves many purposes. We want our students to care about the well-being of others (as is stated in the BHS ESLR's: Expected Student Learning Results). We want our stronger students to realize that there is a great benefit to sharing their knowledge. It is also proven that the best way to learn something is to explain it to someone else. Therefore, not only do the tutorees benefit, but the tutors themselves do as well. Our Honors and A.P. students strengthen their own skills by helping others who are in the foundation courses. Furthermore, most of these students will be applying to colleges which ask about Community Service. In summary, the less strong students are helped by having a peer tutor who can relate to them and the A.P. or Honors students is strengthening skills, doing an honorable service, and looking good on college applications.

The A.P. teachers realized that it is hard for seniors to do so much community service, so the "rules" have loosened up. Most teachers will allow tutoring at an elementary or middle school to count (especially for those in Honors Geometry who may feel too young to tutor here) and some will allow tutoring on the team bus or at home (with a responsible adult signing off). In the senior courses, where the number of hours is 6 per quarter (roughly one period per week) the teachers are softer on what subjects the tutoring can be in and even allow things like "Link Crew", "Meals on Wheels", etc. to count for SOME of the hours. However, if a child CHOOSES to take TWO A.P. Math classes, s/he must do twice the service.

I hope this has helped. -Laura Leventer, Math Department Chair and A.P. Calculus BC teacher Laura_Leventer@berkeley.k12.ca.us


I don't understand the grumbling about the tutoring requirement for AP students. I think it's a great requirement. In this day and age, we should we be encouraging students to give service to our schools and community. Many high schools require community service for all students as a graduation requirement; I'm surprised that BHS hasn't yet. One of my daughters did take AP classes and never felt "put out" that she had to tutor as an AP requirement. Let's think about the positives of this instead of the negatives. Shelley
My daughter is in an AP math class and, as suggested by Ms Leventer, has found the tutoring to be beneficial. My daughter believes it helps her to really learn the material. Her teachers have also been flexible in how students meet the requirements. She points out that many students, herself included, let the tutoring slip until the end of the grading period, which can make it seem suddenly very onerous.

What I don't understand is why there isn't a general community service requirement for all students. All students, not just those in AP and Honors classes, need to learn that they can and should contribute to the community. They should be doing this community service, not just to get into college, but because it is their responsibility as a citizen in this society. This community service requirement ideally could be met even by helping to clean up and maintain vegetation on-campus. I've been rather surprised that very few students currently participate in ongoing efforts to make the school a pleasant and attractive place. The students seem to be in an entitlement mode - it's someone else's job to provide for them. A community service requirement could help teach them that they have responsibilities to help themselves and the community.

I worked overseas for several years in a school in an impoverished country. The students handled much of the maintenance and cleanup as well as many administrative tasks. Classes were large, the facilities were ancient, and books and supplies were extremely limited, yet a great deal of education took place because the students were motivated and grateful for the opportunity to learn. I've felt ever since that American students are basically spoiled. Sign me anon.


I have a suggestion, which may or not be practical, in response to the AP Math tutoring requirement. My daughter is an 8th grader at King Jr. High and I feel that she would benefit from some one-on-one help with the algebra that they are doing. She is a good student and does not want a tutor but I know that some things are tough and it could be a real benefit for these Jr. High kids to get some coaching from the high schoolers. I would be happy to have a high schooler come to our home at a mutually convenient time as I feel it could be a positive experience. I did wonder when reading the response from Linda Leventer if the high schoolers were given any pointers, advice or training on how to tutor. It is of no help to anyone to have a more able person simply tell the tutoree the answers!! If this is something feasible please tell me how to get in touch with the appropriate person(s). I would be happy to supply my phone number. Deb
I would like to thank Ms Leventer for responding to some of the issues raised by us.

I agree with many of the points she raised: an excellent way to learn something is to teach it, community service is a good thing, colleges look for community service by students, learning to care about one's fellow students is important. However, I don't see how these explain why the Math department imposes this requirement.

It is the Math Department's job to teach my child math. It is not their job to decided how my child uses his/her "community service" hours. It is also foolhardy to require someone who can't explain things well (can we all agree that not everyone can explain math concepts?) to someone who is confused to begin with. I think it is misguided to make someone's grade dependent on jumping through this unrelated hoop.

It is also true that in some ways this requirement is counterproductive. I know many honors and AP students (this is NOT just a requirement for AP math but for every honoros math class at every grade level) and to a person they do not see this as community service or as giving back. They see it as as an obstacle or an annoyance. For the most part, these are kids who DO give back, but in their own ways, not in ways that are meaningless to them.

Again, I would suggest that someone in the administration with a view of the bigger picture look at this requirement and make it fair and positive.

Anonymous


I feel community service should be required of all students. I, too, have seen in poor countries how students maintain the buildings and grounds and are grateful to be able to be there to learn, grateful to take care of their school, grateful for their parents' sacrifice in doing without the student's labor which otherwise would be helping to put food on the family's table. My only suggestion would be to broaden the options--eg, if a 9th grader is shy tutoring other highschoolers, let her/him tutor at Washington Elementary across the street or for one of the local Berkeley/Emeryville/Oakland early elementary literacy tutoring programs (advantage here is kids receive training in how to tutor), and if a kid is too shaky in math to tutor math, let him/her tutor English instead. Desmid
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