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Sylvan Hills High School has instituted an advisory program based on a program by New Visions for Public Schools.
In a student advisory program, each student in the school is assigned a teacher or staff member who assists the student in achieving his or her academic and personal goals. Advisory has two distinct parts: an advisory class, similar to a home room, and one-to-one advisement to address educational issues like grade performance, club involvement, etc. At SHHS students will spend additional time with their second period teacher twice each month for advisory.
According to New Visions, advisory offers emotional support for students during adolescence. The social networks that are so important at this age can be disrupted by the transfer to high school. Advisory offers support in two forms. First, it supplies built-in peer groups for all students in a high school, including new students. Second, it gives students an adult who knows them well and who can offer advocacy and support in difficult social and academic situations. This is especially true for students who have few close adult relationships outside school or are at risk of dropping out. Ideally, the advisory teacher is someone the student knows he or she can trust and talk to about his or her progress and standing in the school. Advocates of advisory programs see a direct link between a student’s emotional and social experience and academic achievement. Advisory promotes self-esteem. It provides peer recognition in an accepting environment, offsetting peer pressure and negative responses from peers in other areas. Students in advisory programs are less likely to drop out and have a lower incidence of substance abuse. The advisor also becomes the primary contact person for parents, increasing their involvement, which has been linked to student achievement at all levels of schooling. By having a more in-depth relationship with teachers, parents are more informed about their child’s academic needs and successes and can better support them. Having the advisor as the contact person also increases the overall level of accountability in the school: each teacher is directly responsible for certain students, and each student is directly responsible to a particular teacher. In order for an advisory to be effective, it must reflect and be a substantial component of the school’s mission. An advisory is not just an “add-on” to the curriculum: it requires a substantial investment of time, planning and reflection. Even schools that have maintained their advisories over many years constantly reconfigure them -- often every year -- in order to effectively address the needs of students and the school.