Advisory Reboot #1 (3/3/20)

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  • Create Date March 10, 2020
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March 3, 2020

Middle and High School Principals and Staff:

Below are two pieces of information intended to help in the ongoing school-based conversations about advisories.

The first, a tight and loose chart about the contract language.

The second is the beginning of a Q&A series based on questions that APS and ATF have been getting from administrators and educators.

Advisory Q&A #1

Why has APS and ATF changed Advisories?

ATF conducted a survey during the 2018-19 School Year and found widespread discontent with how advisories were working. Based on these results, APS and ATF resolved during negotiations to form a joint task force to study how we can re-tool advisory to better meet the needs of educators and students.

A few quotes from the survey that are indicative of many other comments:

We should have students that we know so we can help better.

Advisories don’t work as the vision says across the board. I don’t know anyone who likes advisory.

MS: At my school, advisory is a mixed bag. We use the time for RTI so that students don't have to give up electives to receive interventions, but for those students who don't need interventions, it can feel wasted. When we have direction as to what we should do with the time, it helps. However, having a daily advisory means taking minutes from our other class periods that we would love tohave back.

Every grade level is doing something different. Students are confused about the purpose of advisory from grade level to grade level. I would like to see a school-wide goal being met rather than just at grade level.

The Joint Advisory Task Force between APS and ATF was formed because of ongoing issues about the way advisories have been working. The task force was composed of APS educators, principals, and administration.

As the Task Force began their work, it became clear that, in most schools, the original intent of Advisory had been changed over time. In many schools, Advisory time had become remediation, homeroom, study hall etc.…

What was the original intent of Advisory?

The broad purpose of an advisory period is to ensure that at least one adult in the school is getting to know each student well, making sure their learning needs are being met, and encouraging them to make good academic choices and plan for their future. When Advisories in APS were first implemented they were connected to Next Steps (mandated by law) and Student-Led Conferences.

So, what was the problem?

There is a growing need to address the mental and emotional health of our students. In recent years suspension, tardiness, ditching, drug use, fighting and other issues have increased at an alarming rate.

Advisories can, and should, serve as a way to strengthen relationships and help students weather the challenges that may keep them from succeeding academically, including a lack of routines, social isolation, and out-of-school issues that can bleed into the school day.

But problems in the way advisories have been designed and carried out can keep them from being a meaningful part of a student's school experience and many teachers have become frustrated with the requirement.

As the task force shared research, it became clear that advisories are an important component of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). We are all aware, that the SEL needs of our students have become increasingly significant and as the work of the task force progressed it became clear that the recommendations of the past must become clear contract language for the present.

Research shows that SEL not only improves achievement by an average of 11 percentile points, but it also increases pro-social behaviors (such as kindness, sharing, and empathy), improves student attitudes toward school, and reduces depression and stress among students (Durlak et al., 2011).

We feel strongly that the way we have created a time for academic interventions and enrichment is working for our students. Why do we have to change that?

You don’t. You should continue what works for students, but we are asking you to “rebrand” advisory as a separate time for a specific purpose. APS and ATF can help you with scheduling. Principals can also contact Patty Salas.

What do I do with the advisory time?

APS and ATF will provide guidance and research each week for the next several months. Identical information will be shared with principals and educators and is intended to help Instructional Councils work with all staff to develop a shared knowledge base as each school works to implement the current contract language.

We are also working with several APS department leaders to make system connections and provide supports.

Is there flexibility in the amount of time used for advisories? Can we meet for longer periods less frequently?

It is essential that advisories meet regularly. Meeting at least once per week will build a familiarity with the student group that cannot occur when you only meet once per month or every other week. The amount of time for high school is a “minimum of 15 minutes” and no more than 20 minutes 2x per week in Middle Schools.

More Q&A in coming weeks. Send your questions to act@atfunion.org