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Student Activism Kickstarts FHS Tutorial Changes For The Second Semester

Franklin High School’s tutorial system is scheduled to be edited for the second semester of the 21-22 school year, starting on the week of Jan 19-20. According to Principal Chris Frazier, the changes that will be implemented include students having access to all of their teachers on both tutorial days and two additional tutorial periods in January and April. Teacher PLC’s (Professional Learning Communities), where teachers and staff learn about equity and social justice work, which have been held on tutorial days so far this year, will now be held during staff meetings on Tuesdays, which will make teachers available for all tutorial times. 

Before these changes, the tutorial system was made where instead of having a tutorial two days every full week, where every teacher is available on both days, there would be two tutorial days every two to three weeks with only half of the teachers being available each tutorial day, and the other half attending the PLC meetings. Frazier expressed that “after meeting with students and staff we recognized that students desired more access to their teachers to get support and help with classwork; tutorial served as the best time for those interactions, as it was embedded in the school day.”

Although student comments discussing the new tutorial system have been frequent, Franklin High School senior Evan Lewis took his comments a step further with his Change.org petition “Rework the Current FHS Tutorial System.” As this article is being written, the petition has 597 signatures, exceeding the patron goal by almost 500. Lewis explained his conversation with Principal Frazier about why this system was implemented to begin with. “The transition back [from online school] is an especially difficult time to do this. I spoke with Mr. Frazier and he told me that [the tutorial] was implemented in order to try to raise the graduation rate by prioritizing teacher or professional development.”

Frazier added that “this year, we tried to keep the teacher collaboration momentum we gained through the CDL and Hybrid schedule of the 2020-2021 school year. There were numerous opportunities for teachers to work together in both Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) and Department Meetings.” 

Evan, while explaining the conversation, also expressed his concerns and what drove him to create this petition: “… I think that taking time from student learning is not the way to increase graduation rate… I know a lot of friends who take multiple classes under one discipline and so they’re not able to meet with the classes that they need to. It’s also [restrictive] for people with disabilities who have to miss school a lot, or [students] with medical issues.” Lewis created this petition in early October with the intent of the tutorial being “reverted to the pre-pandemic system, in which teachers are available throughout tutorial,” and that “tutorial be every week, in order to maintain a set schedule…” Teacher and student complaints were also a leading factor to the creation of this petition. Jenny Tatone, a part time English teacher at Franklin High School, shared her concerns with the tutorial system, while still showing appreciation for having the opportunity to learn how to connect with students with other staff members through the PLC meetings. “For me as a halftime employee, there are tremendous disadvantages because I have very few opportunities to host tutorial sessions for my students because I’m expected to be in our department meetings, and while I value the opportunity to connect with my colleagues, I continue to feel like my students are my number one priority,” says Tatone. “… I’m not finding that I have as much time to [connect with students] in a setting that’s not the traditional classroom setting because tutorial sessions offer a space where you can connect with students.” Tatone’s hope for this new system is that more people take advantage of the tutorial time in her classroom, while still being “able to really help each other and share strong, creative, and effective ideas for being better teachers.”

While Franklin High School has changed their tutorial system due to student voice and concern, other PPS high schools continue to go with their tutorial system that was enforced for the 21-22 school year, with some not knowing when their next tutorial will take place. Jayne Crane-Simpson, a senior at Benson Polytechnic High School, mentions that Benson “hasn’t had tutorial and flex sessions in the past two months, which means that I have had no time to go to my teachers unless I go during a free period if they also happen to have a free period or if I email them…”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Benson’s tutorial system worked where every full week, there were two tutorial days, with one day dedicated to connecting with shop teachers (manufacturing, automotive, etc), while the other day was dedicated to meeting with academic teachers. This year, every teacher is available for both tutorial days, but tutorial weeks remain random and scarce. According to Benson’s schedule on Trivory, there are flex days scheduled to happen this month, but Crane-Simpson mentions that “No one knows when the next [tutorial week] is supposed to be, not even teachers or administration. [Students] ask all the time ‘when is our next flex?’ and no one knows.”

As of now, no official petition has been made for Benson’s tutorial/flex system, but student concerns have been brought with administrators, and slowly, other petitions from other PPS high schools such as Cleveland High School’s “Change Fridays and Flex Periods for Cleveland High School,” have been made in hope for future progression.

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