1/08/11 — Yesterday, Rebel Girl called me to relate a story she had heard about a recent School meeting. According to the story, at the meeting, faculty were informed (by the head of our Learning Center) that, upon downloading our rosters (for our classes, which begin on Monday), we (faculty) will somehow automatically refer our students to tutoring. We can “opt out” by undoing the check in a box.
Something like that.
I didn’t know what to make of the story. Sounded mighty strange.
Subsequently, all faculty (at IVC) received an email from the district’s TechMaster, Jim Gaston, which referred to precisely this new peculiarity of our rosters. “As a part of Title 5 requirements,” he wrote,
an instructor-generated electronic tutor referral protocol is being added to MySite faculty rosters for the Spring 2011 Semester. At the bottom of the roster download page in MySite you’ll see the following text:I’ve got to say: this seems mighty hinky to me. The default, it seems, is an instructor’s referring “all students” (in his class/section) to tutoring. An instructor has to go out of his or her way not to do these blanket referrals.
In support of student success, I refer all students listed on this roster to tutoring assistance in the Learning Center, if available. Please contact the Coordinator of the Learning Center to discuss specific learning needs for your students.
There is a checkbox labeled “Learning Center Approved” and it is checked by default. The first time you download your roster each semester your approval for your students to access the services of the Learning Center will be recorded which will greatly streamline student access to these services. If for some reason, you do not want your students to use the Learning Center, simply uncheck the box before you click on the “Retrieve” button. The checkbox will only be available the first time you download your roster each semester.
But doesn’t this new "protocol" presuppose that all students of an instructor who leaves the box checked require tutoring? How on Earth can an instructor make that determination before he has met with his students (i.e., when he downloads his roster, something he does before the first day of class)?
Like I said. Hinky.
I went to the State Chancellor’s website (which is part of the system of California government websites). That led me to:
Title 5 Guidelines Related to Curriculum and Instruction
And that led me to
California Community Colleges Supplemental Learning Assistance and Tutoring Regulations and Guidelines
I skimmed the document (a pdf) to a section about “Apportionment for Tutoring” ("apportionment" refers to the distribution of monies—typically, by the state—to individual college districts). There, one learns that “Apportionment may be claimed for individual student tutoring only if all the following conditions are met…" (page 9).
The conditions are pretty much what you’d expect. The tutoring must occur at or through a designated learning center; the learning center must be properly supervised; the tutors must receive training; etc.
Unsurprisingly, among the conditions is (e):
Students enroll in the Supervised Tutoring course … after referral by a counselor or an instructor on the basis of an identified learning need.Elsewhere in the document, we are told:
A counselor or an instructor, on the basis of an identified learning need, must refer all students seeking tutoring. Students cannot refer themselves for tutoring….” (p. 10)OK, so the point is that, to do this tutoring thing right, all students who are tutored (through this state-supported system) must be enrolled on the basis of a referral.
The referral must be by a “counselor or an instructor.”
The latter must be referring the student to tutoring because of “an identified learning need.”
Is this what Gaston is referring to when he refers to Title 5? Guess so.
Gaston (well, since he’s the tech guy, no doubt he’s going by what he’s been told by, say, a VPI or some other academic administrator/authority) seems to be saying that, if the college is to provide maximal tutoring in a manner that squares with Title 5, we’d better find a way to have students pretty much automatically referred to tutoring by instructors.
Is that Gaston's message to faculty? Are we missing something here?
Please tell us if we’re wrong about this.
Presumably, Title 5 includes condition (e) (at least in part) because the state does not wish to support boondoggles. No, the state is happy to support tutoring if it exists to deal with a “learning need” that has been identified in an actual student by an actual instructor. But it has no intention of supporting a tutoring free-for-all.
Am I right? Is that what e is about?
If so, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that something hinky is afoot here. "Greatly streamlined" access? Well, that's one way to put it. I will resist the urge to offer a more telling phrase.
This new “protocol” whereby students are referred by instructors to tutoring before the instructors have met with the students surely violates the spirit of this law (—if, that is, I understand the law correctly).
Well, in any case, I personally would take a dim view of an instructor who would “refer” all of his students to tutoring before he has actually encountered them and has considered their ability/work. Do bear in mind that, as one might expect, a significant proportion of our students do not require tutoring.
ALSO: shouldn’t this “protocol” have been approved by faculty? I mean, it creates a situation in which, obviously, inattentive faculty (um, there are lots of those) will be doing lots of referring without knowing it. Why would we go along with something like that? And I don't recall this coming up at a Senate meeting. (OK, I do forget things sometimes.)
Let us know what you think. If we've made a factual mistake, we'll be happy to correct it, as always.