Step Inside the PERC classroom

PERC classrooms still have one teacher for every 30-plus students. However, each PERC classroom also has four to five peer leaders.

Known as Teaching Assistant Scholars (TASs), these peer leaders are typically one grade level above the PERC students. They are drawn from the population of students who passed the state exams in science or math but have not yet achieved college-ready benchmarks.

Using a curriculum specifically designed for the PERC classroom, the 10th grade TASs are charged with teaching 9th grade science or math to small groups of about four to five students. The TASs must teach the curriculum, answer students’ questions, reframe the material for struggling students, and learn strategies to motivate students.

The teacher is there is manage the instructional team of TASs. She establishes the learning goals and motivations for the lessons; listens carefully to assess TASs’ teaching skills and student content understanding; models effective pedagogy for the TAS; and focuses on students in particular need of expert attention.

In addition to their work in the PERC classroom, the TASs participate in PERC’s Pipeline to College. This program prepares the TASs for more advanced coursework, helps them increase their self-regulation and efficacy, and instills in them the belief that they can succeed. In particular, the Pipeline to College includes a critically important TAS Class that is built around four themes: learning to learn; learning to teach; learning in the content area; and learning about college.

PERC School Culture

PERC represents the chance for students to become academic leaders in schools that often struggle to build an academic culture.

We have seen academically successful but shy students emerge as leaders and struggling middle students embrace school as a place in which they can succeed and lead. In small schools, the TAS population can make up half of the student population and thus the TAS culture – one of leadership, academic success, and college preparedness – becomes the norm.

The PERC Program works with schools to embed the TAS culture. We provide banners, posters, and brochures that display the TAS opportunity. And we offer workshops for guidance counselors on how to integrate the college knowledge the TAS receive into school practices.

TAS scholarship and leadership skills find their way into all classrooms. PERC teachers share the skills they are learning with non-PERC teachers; TASs emerge as leaders in their other classes; and students who look up to the TASs start to imagine their own potential. Perhaps most importantly, the TASs develop true agency as they begin to see themselves as integral to the school and its increasingly academic culture.