New York City students suspended for fighting and other offenses will be given $500 scholarships and credit for tutoring third graders who are at risk of being held back this summer. In theory, the tutors will be repentant students recommended by their teachers. But Ron Isaac, writing in the New York Resident, is dubious about turning bad kids with bad academic skills into tutors. (The column isn’t yet online.)
These high school students, who have been suspended from school for the most serious violations, some of them full-blown crimes, will be thrown into confidential settings with eight-year-old kids to provide tutoring in areas in which the older child may not be competent himself.
. . . Among these “shake and bake” tutors are students who have been suspended for ninety days and reassigned to “Second Opportunity Schools.” The general public is clueless how horrific a student’s behavior must be, in terms of gravity and frequency of actions, for the educational authorities to approve such a suspension and transfer. Only the worst of the worst, whom public schools cannot expel by law, are welcome.
It’s easy for students to say “sorry” without changing their anti-social behavior, Isaac writes. And meeting academic standards at alternative schools requires very little academics.
. . . to gang members (who are not excluded from the program, though students on the deans list are), “helping” younger kids may imply a different and unwanted kind of influence. Before we experiment with how they will fare with our most susceptible and innocent third-graders, why not subject them first to a test of faith? Require them first to show some consistent positive energy in their own classroom. Let that performance be a prelude to new chances.
If there’s money to pay student tutors, why not reward good students with a summer job?