Designing and Implementing an Effective Advisory Program
The benefits of implementing school-wide advisory programs are well documented. Advisory programs can play a critical role in a school’s overall academic and student support services plan. Advisories are a primary vehicle for creating a more personalized learning environment where all students are well known by at least one adult. Moreover, advisory provides a structure and a set of practices for monitoring and supporting students’ academic progress and college and career readiness throughout their high school career.
In most secondary schools, advisory is a new and distinctly different construct for student-teacher engagement. The emphasis on relationships, coaching, and facilitation and an agenda driven by student needs and realities—rather than subject matter content—is a huge shift for most faculty members. Understandably, many schools experience major obstacles in developing an advisory program that is fully supported by faculty, parents, and students over the long term.
What Are Advisories, and How Can They Support Healthy Adolescent Development?
Advisory is a fundamental structure for middle and high school students to develop key life skills, metacognitive skills, and habits of learning in support of academic achievement, postsecondary planning, personal growth, and interpersonal skill development. Advisories create a more personalized learning environment where all students are well known by at least one adult through weekly small group meetings and one-to-one interactions. Adolescents stand at a crucial intersection in their social, emotional and academic development, and they need support to navigate the complexities of their middle and high school years. Skills like analyzing academic data, setting and reflecting upon academic and personal goals, managing time, organizing materials, developing efficient study skills, acquiring effective communication skills, working collaboratively with others, problem solving and advocating for oneself become especially important during this time. Advisories provide the structure for students to have multiple opportunities to practice and rehearse these skills in an authentic setting with a peer group that supports each other, grows together, and learns from one another.
Recommended Advisory Goals and Outcomes
Educators for Social Responsibility has developed Advisory Design Standards to support districts and schools in both the design and implementation of their advisory program. We work strategically with schools to identify goals for the advisory program that are in support of increased academic performance and achievement and postsecondary planning. We recommend the following goal areas to schools, and help to align them with their mission, vision and core beliefs, the Common Core State Standards and school improvement plans.
Creating Community: Advisories serve as a safe space where students come together as a peer group to support each other’s academic and personal goals, and future aspirations. Research shows that belonging to this kind of positive peer group increases the students’ attachment to school and reduces risk behaviors including school failure and dropping out.
Academic Advisement: Advisories build students’ capacity to monitor their week-to-week academic progress and achievement. Through highly structured systems, processes and protocols, the advisor creates an academic culture where students become practiced in a set of skills that enable them to reflect on and analyze data related to their student profile and in turn set measurable academic, social and behavioral goals.
Postsecondary Planning: Advisories support all students to hold a vision for their future and assist them to build a postsecondary plan two years beyond high school. Key postsecondary milestones are identified for each grade level and advisors work closely with the college, career and guidance center to ensure that all students have an opportunity to plan for their future.
Social and Emotional Learning: Advisories help students strengthen social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive competencies. Supporting students’ social and emotional growth and self-regulated behavior, in the context of a peer cohort, promotes self-discipline and group cohesiveness. Students learn a set of communication skills that help them take a problem solving approach to their day-to-day experiences.
How Can ESR Help Your School With Advisory Development?
ESR works collaboratively with district leaders and/or principals and advisory leadership teams to customize an approach using advisory standards to help districts and schools do the following: 1) organize an advisory leadership team; 2) collect, analyze, and communicate data to build understanding, commitment and ownership for the advisory program; 3) identify advisory goals that are based on the mission/vision of the school and the school’s/students’ current realities as well as based in adolescent research; 4) identify a grouping structure (size, mix, and continuity) that promotes social bonding and a positive peer culture, and supports the development of interpersonal and intrapersonal skills; 5) identify an advisory schedule (length, time of day, frequency) that supports the advisory goals; 6) identify rituals, routines, protocols, and key target skill lessons; 7) create a professional development plan to build the knowledge, skills and competencies of advisors; 8) implement a research and evaluation plan to assess program effectiveness; 9) develop a program that links to the wider school context.
Research and Evaluation
ESR works with the district and/or principals to engage in evaluation practices to assess the impact of the advisory program on student attendance, graduation rates, on track status for grade nine or an increase in retention rates for grade nine, and improved school climate. Standardized and validated surveys, focus groups with staff and students, and observations provide data for analysis to evaluate how the program is meeting the intermediate and long-term outcomes of the advisory program.
Why Work with ESR?
For more than ten years, ESR has provided advisory program coaching, consultation, training, and technical support in many urban, suburban, and rural districts and schools across the country, including small schools, smaller learning communities, and comprehensive middle and high schools. We have partnered with large urban school districts to support advisory design and implementation in cities such as Austin, Atlanta, Denver, Chicago, San Diego, Washington, and New York City.
Core resources for Advisory Plus
ESR published The Advisory Guide: Designing and Implementing Effective Advisory Programs in Secondary Schools in 2004. It is a practical “nuts and bolts” manual for tackling the design, content, and implementation challenges of building effective advisory programs. The guide helps leadership teams and faculty move beyond theory and design to the concrete shifts in practice that personalize relationships and support the academic, social, and emotional development of students. The guide also provides nearly 150 activities for use in advisory.
ESR created The Advisory Library in 2006. With 16 individual books handpicked and recommended by the authors of The Advisory Guide, The Advisory Library offers a wide variety of resources and activities for community building, journaling, collaborative problem solving, and social skill development. More than just a collection of books, The Advisory Library also includes a handbook that demonstrates how to use the books, and gives schools up-to-date information and resources to keep advisory sessions fresh.
Created in 2011, Getting Advisory Right: Tools for Supporting Effective Advisories is a unique, multi-dimensional resource that provides “just-in-time” professional development for teachers in schools that are committed to improving and sustaining high-quality student advisory programs. Each segment includes videos of real advisories in action aligned with scripted professional development guides, annotated facilitation tips and strategies for advisory, sample advisory session plans, activities, handouts, and more.
In addition we provide samples of a variety of schedules, monthly and semester advisory maps, and advisor notebooks from schools that are implementing successful advisory programs. We also work with advisory design teams to develop and write their own school-focused advisory session descriptions.
To find out how Advisory Plus can serve your school or district, call us today toll free at 800-370-2515 ext. 32 or fill out the form below to have us contact you about a customized quotation for our services.