Known as mandatory tutoring sessions in other California cities, the “Homework Club” at Santa Barbara High School was launched the beginning of this year. It is a network of tutoring sessions which occur everyday after school for almost an hour. They are divided into four core subjects: English, math, science, and social studies. Teachers alternate as tutors and are paid for the time they give. Attendees consist of students receiving grades of D, F, or I (incomplete), who are referred to the club by their teachers. They must attend until their grade rises or until they are excused. Others may also attend voluntarily.
Programs similar to the Homework Club have been in existence at San Marcos and Dos Pueblos, and also at Santa Ynez, San Luis Obispo, and Calabasas high schools for several years. However, most of those are more selective in comparison to Santa Barbara High’s “across the board program,” explained Richard Johnston, a math tutor for the club. “It is designed to catch 60 to 70 percent of kids in trouble school-wise and move them forward,” he said. It seems the goal is to help all students who need help and are willing to try. I think the latter requirement may prove to be a sticking point.
The most interesting aspect for many is that Homework Club is mandatory. Can this be a positive motivation? Junior class student Chris Robinson thinks the requirement is indeed beneficial: “If I didn’t have Homework Club, I don’t think I would finish all of my homework.” Fellow junior Ana Espenoza and freshman Amy Lucatero agree that it helps them to be productive. Amy even said, “I would rather go to homework club than work at home.”
Yet I cannot believe that these students’ positive outlook is shared by everyone in the Club. We all know how difficult a task becomes once we are aware that we have to do it. This, I am guessing, will be the toughest obstacle to overcome for both students and tutors. Mr. Johnston said, “It all depends on whether you subscribe to that philosophy that a high school student is too young to make that decision,” meaning the decision being choosing to fail a class. A failing grade could have a great impact on a child’s future, and the “mandatory” idea is that the administration is refusing to let students choose to fail.
Although mandatory for some, Homework Club is open to all students in need of help. Social studies teacher and Homework Club tutor Rolf Richter explained that last year the administration tried voluntary attendance with Saturday school. Saturday school is a disciplinary program that students are sent to when they, for example, have too many unexcused absences. Yet, shockingly, not too many teenagers wanted to voluntarily spend Saturday mornings in a disciplinary study hall.
In comparison, teachers are hopeful that students will approach the Homework Club differently. Mr. Johnston half-joked, “Teachers need to quit saying to students, ‘You didn’t do the homework, so you need to go here.’ They should say, ‘You didn’t do the work, so you get to go here.'”
It is indeed a rare opportunity available to students. Right now, as it is getting underway, there is too much paperwork associated with it, some experimenting, and, according to student Chris Robinson, not enough enforcement for students who do not attend. What else is to be expected? It has only just begun. I suspect it will mold itself to better suit student needs when more become involved both as tutors and voluntary attendees.