Academic Tutorials Could be the New SSR

Woodside’s Proposed Tutorial Model


A recent proposal may disappoint fans of Woodside’s early dismissal days: Woodside hopes to implement a revised schedule next fall, one that involves giving Wednesdays a late start and regular dismissal.

In essence, this schedule change would push Wednesday school hours later by removing first period on that day and lengthening it during the rest of the week.  Yet the main benefit of the proposed change includes replacing Sustained Silent Reading with thirty-five minute “tutorials” prior to lunch, one on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

“[I] thought it would fit pretty well with our campus,” Charles Velschow, a Woodside history teacher and Athletic Director, comments.  “Students would have more flexibility to work on homework, to make up tests, or to go see a teacher if they needed help.  Students could still read if they like, but it would be an academic tutorial.”

Velschow also works on the task force committee, a Woodside group in charge of the schedule change.  The committee originally considered adopting Palo Alto’s “advisory period,” in which a student would have the same teacher for four years as a quasi-guidance counselor.  Ultimately, they decided it was too expensive for Woodside and instead turned to San Mateo’s “tutorial model,” which they aim to test out in March.

“We’re in the process right now of working with [Woodside’s Shared Decision-Making Council],” Velschow explains.  “We’re hoping to have a vote on [the schedule] on January twenty-second.  If SDMC were to approve it, then we would go to the [teachers’] union and get a waiver, and we’d have to have a vote of seventy-five percent of the members to change the schedule for two weeks.”

If approved, this two-week test cycle would run from March fifth through the sixteenth.  Still, even if it goes well, Woodside will not necessarily use the schedule in the fall.

“On the last day of the [trial], Friday the sixteenth, I would have a survey that would go out to the staff and a survey that would go out to the students, basically to get feedback.  If there was a groundswell of support, then we would propose that to SDMC as the schedule for next year.  We would also need another [teachers’] union vote,” Velschow clarifies.

Adrienne Evans, Woodside’s sophomore class president, describes the input her leadership class had on the schedule.

“Mr. Velschow did present the proposed schedule change to our class and asked for our opinion,” Evans recalls.  “However, I don’t believe our feedback was taken into consideration very much, because the idea had been pretty much finalized.”

Although Evans supports the idea of tutorials, she also plays soccer for Woodside’s varsity team and worries about how Wednesday’s later dismissal would affect her.  As she does not have a first period, the later start would not help her much.

“Not having an early day on Wednesdays will definitely impact my schedule as I have after-school sports, and not having that extra time to do homework will affect me in terms of getting it done on time and getting enough sleep,” Evans reasons.

Woodside junior Arianna Montalvo disagrees.  Since she has a first period, she supports the change despite the later dismissal.

“Overall I would prefer it, just because we wouldn’t have a first period [on Wednesdays],” Montalvo decides.  “I could get more sleep and maybe talk to my teachers during the tutorials.”

Alton Lee, a science teacher new to Woodside this year, has experience teaching at schools that use the tutorial model.  He would personally appreciate the extra time to work with students.

“This is something a lot of schools have… and I’ve had very positive things to say about it,” Lee contends.  “For some, coming in before school or staying after school to make up work is a challenge, and… it relieves some of the burden of having to do that.”

The schedule change would also even out the number of instructional minutes per class.  Over a two week period, the current bell schedule allows for five hundred minutes in first period compared to four hundred sixty in all other classes.  In the suggested version, every class would have a total of four hundred sixty-four instructional minutes.

Nevertheless, the purpose of the change remains to incorporate tutorials.  Velschow concludes, “The selling point to staff would be that it’s a more efficient use of school hours, rather than having to set stuff up at lunch or after school to meet with students.”