Advisory Advice

According to NMSA:
Advisory programs are designed to deal directly with the affective needs of [young adolescents]. Activities may range from non-formal interactions to use of systematically developed units whose organizing center are drawn from the common problems, needs, interests, or concerns of [young adolescents], such as “getting along with peers,” “living in the school,” or “developing self-concept.” In the best of these programs, [young adolescents] have an opportunity to get to know one adult really well, to find a point of security in the institution, and to learn about what it means to be a healthy human being. (p. 40)

Among the purposes of the advisory, Stevenson writes, are to

  • ensure than each student is known well at school by at least one adult who is that youngster’s advocate (advisor);
  • guarantee that every student belongs to a peer group;
  • help every student find ways of being successful within the academic and social options the school provides;
  • promote communication and coordination between home and school.

Traits of Achievers:

1. Achievers spend more time in conversation with adults — eight to ten times as much as non-achieving students.

2. Achievers receive explict achievement training such as music lessons, sports coaching, skill, craft or hobby instruction.

3. Achievers have a regular pattern of behavior; they can count on certain routines in their lives regarding after school activity.

4. Achievers engage in anticipatory behavior, planning for tomorrow, next week, next summer or the long-term future.

5. Achievers participate in activities extending the opportunity to read and write by being engaged with technology or other activities which require them to read high level material and communicate with others for a specific and important purpose.

6. Achievers engage in constructive learning besides homework, such as hobbies, games and related intellectual or high skill endeavors.

7. Underachievers over participate in unsupervised recreational activity, such as watching T.V., or just “hanging out.”

8. Later research (Johnston, 1992) found that Achievers describe themselves as doing something “important” or “special” in their homes, families and communities, such as taking care of a younger sibling, preparing family meals, helping with chores or helping in a family business or other activity.

Some statistics about teacher – student relationships:
In a recent survey of middle school teachers, parents and students in five large northeastern and Midwestern states, the advisory program of the middle school came under the most intense criticism. Although 75% of teachers and 68% of parents found that advisory programs were promising ways of helping students develop strong self-concepts and decision making skills, only 32% of teachers and 40% of parents thought the program was fulfilling those goals. Further, while nearly 90% of parents and teachers agreed that it is important for a student to have one adult to whom he or she can turn with a problem, only about half of the parents and two-thirds of the teachers believe that this condition exists for all children in the school.

Student views of the nature of adult-child relationships are even more disturbing. In this sample, students reported the following perceptions of their relationships with teachers.




Do Not Know

My teachers are happy




My teachers like to spend time with me




Most teachers like kids




My teachers like to talk with kids informally




My teachers like to play and have fun




There is an adult in my school I could talk to if I had a problem




Most alarming is that students feel that they know so little about their teachers — or are so uncertain of their relationships with the adults with whom they spend much of their time. It is difficult, probably impossible, to form a guidance-oriented relationship with someone you know so little about.
How do schools overcome the perception that advisory is an extra, that it takes away instructional time, causes extra work for teachers, and is so contrived in an attempt to “connect” to kids that it is irrelevant.

A2 and AYP

  • How does A2 effect AYP?
  • Is there a relationship with academic progress?
  • Proposed solutions abound. Hold the parents legally and financially accountable for the actions of their children. Get tougher with juvenile offenders: adjudicate them as adults, set up boot camps, build more prison facilities. Throw disruptive youths out of school. Take away their driver’s licenses. Withhold welfare payments.All of these solutions have one thing in common: they are institutional, organizational and systemic solutions to the problem. They assume that by changing the school system, the justice system, the welfare system…any number of systems…we will produce better behaved and more successful children.

    All of the solutions suffer from one fatal flaw: a overzealous faith in the ability of large-scale interventions…systems…to produce good children and youth. They don’t. Good children are raised by communities of adults who share common beliefs and values about what constitutes reasonable and appropriate behavior, who accept responsibility for sharing the wisdom of their years and experience with children, and who share a common commitment to all of the children of the community and nation.

  • The advisory period is the linchpin in the middle-school movement, some experts say. Many middle-school programs suffer from poorly implemented advisories, however. This week, Education World answers the question What makes a successful advisory? We also include activity ideas for improving advisories! “I think an advisory of some type is essential to a middle-school program,” teacher Pamela Chandler told Education World. “These kids have needs beyond academics that must be addressed. Advisory allows for a consistent, cohesive program that puts all school community members on the same page.”

Advisory Activities

Team Academic Support
Students report to Advisory for attendance and then go to the Team Teacher they need additional help from for the duration of the Advisory.

Team building/Adventure Challenges

  • Promotes learning to work with others.
  • Promotes communication with a purpose.
  • Promotes interpersonal relationships.
  • Creates success and success breeds success.

Relationship building

  • Creates a sense of belonging for students in the school.
  • Adult-student relationship.
  • Easier to keep tabs on a student.
  • There are schools who use Advisory to make disciplinary and academic phone calls home.
  • Underscores one of the principles from Understanding Poverty by Ruby Payne: Relationships are a top priority among the poor.

Personal General Observations

  • Advisory at the end of the day doesn’t work out the best.
  • Advisory has to be scaled to the needs of the individual advisory and to the needs of the school. Cannot be “programmatic.”
  • One way to think of choosing items for Advisory is to ask oneself, “What can I do with the students or have the students do that will take their focus off of the problems of life and put their focus on readiness for learning for the day?”