Philosophy and Purpose
The Advisory Program at Parker exists to enable advisors and students to know each other well so that students make the most of their experiences as members of the Parker community, a community guided by the 10 Common Principles of the Coalition of Essential Schools. The focus of advisory is on the development of the whole child, on building relationships, and on creating a safe, supportive and caring peer and school culture. The specific purposes of advisory are:
- Academic Advising: The advisory is a place to develop personal learning plans (PLPs), to monitor student progress in general and toward specific goals, to discuss teachers’ assessments with students and parents, and to build upon the habits of learning.
- Community Service: The advisory is a place to practice being an active member of the broader community by designing and implementing community service projects.
- Community Conversations: The advisory is a place for school-wide conversations about community issues, including school governance, and about being a community member.
- Recreation: The advisory is a place to have fun and to learn about group process and dynamics.
We believe that the organization of the Advisory program should be informed by the purposes to be achieved.
- Advisor to advisee ratio is 1:12 or less so students can be known well.
- Students are placed in advisories each year using the following set of criteria.
- A student is placed in an advisory based on her age with secondary consideration given to the academic Division she is in.
- To the extent possible, a student is placed in an advisory in which his advisor is also one of his teachers.
- In Division 1 and Division 2, advisories are mixed age.
- In Division 3, advisory placement is based on year of graduation. Advisory groups for seniors are also their Senior Seminar classes.
- Advisory groups are intended to be gender-balanced and representative of Parker’s diversity along multiple dimensions.
- All full-time teachers serve as advisors. Some co-advising relationships exist.
- Advisories meet approximately two and a half hours each week with morning connections M, T, Th, Fr (8:30-8:45), afternoon reflections M, T, Th, Fr (3:20-3:30), and extended time on Wednesdays (12:45-1:30). Advisories meet during Academic Block time as well based on Divisional schedules. Additional meetings outside of the regular school day are at the advisor’s discretion with approval from the Division/Administration.
- When advisories share space, it is important to be conscious of the dynamic this creates and of the importance of establishing shared norms.
- Advisory serves as one of the primary avenues through which students’ voices are heard and through which students have ownership of the school. The Community Congress and Justice Committee both look to advisories to gather information and to promote conversations.
Division 3 students serve as peer mentors in each Division 1 advisory.
Money is allocated in the budget to support the advisory program. $40 is given to each advisor to cover various costs. Advisors must submit receipts in order to be reimbursed.
Advisory Program Content
It is our intention that the deliberate curriculum designed by each advisor is aligned with the four stated purposes of the advisory program and supports the development of the whole child, the building of relationships, and the development of a safe, supportive and caring peer and school culture. All advisories establish a set of routines that structure their time together. Certain routines and curricular elements are common among all advisors, such as connections, reflections, and the Personal Learning Plan (PLP). We also have a common set of protocols that are drawn upon by advisors as needed. How each of these elements is actually delivered in the advisory, however, will depend on the individual advisor and the needs of her group. Often, all of the advisors in a Division will collectively design curriculum, e.g. discussion of a community norm, a skills workshop, a community event debriefed in advisory groupings. A variety of resources (electronic, paper and human) are available to all advisors as they do this work.
Professional Development and Support
The core of Parker’s professional development with respect to advisory centers on helping advisors build their skills as facilitators and advocates. Typically, two-three full faculty meetings a year are devoted to advisory issues and to being reflective of our practice as advisors. Advisory issues are discussed regularly in bi-weekly Divisional meetings. Summer planning time is also dedicated to the advisory program either as a full faculty or through Divisions. All new advisors go through specific advisor training during our new teacher orientation and are provided additional support throughout the year. We continue the process of reflecting on our practice as advisors and tuning our advisory PLP process in order to make the PLP a more useful and living part of teaching and learning at Parker.
Individual students are assessed in advisory primarily in two ways: through progress made in their Personal Learning Plans (PLPs); and by meeting the stated criteria on the quarterly Advisory progress report. Advisory groups are assessed on the completion of their community service by having to submit a community service plan for the year and by providing evidence of their work. Advisors are assessed periodically though observation and through surveys completed by parents and advisees. We conduct annual community surveys, a section of which focuses on advisory, and we regularly dedicate faculty committee time to improving the advisory program.
The Advisory Program is supported by an Advisory Coordinator, Debbie Osofsky. In consultation with the Principal and Division Coordinators, she oversees the advisory program, facilitates professional development around advisory issues, provides curricular support to advisors in meeting program purposes, and helps advisors who are struggling. Please feel free to contact her with any questions (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Service to the Community
Students in all Parker Divisions serve on vitally important school operations committees (including an elected Community Congress and a student Justice Committee) and live by a Parker School Constitution which the student body wrote and approved. They offer their services to the school community in many other ways, from peer tutoring to hosting outside visitors to maintaining the school’s computer systems. In addition, advisory groups and elective classes go into the surrounding communities to work with nursing homes, shelters, and other service organizations.
All Division III students will commit two hours per week to in-school service. In addition, all adults involved in daily functioning in the Parker school will serve as mentors to one or two Division III students. Some students may work with the Technology Coordinator on computer maintenance, others may work with Division I teachers as classroom aides/tutors, or as school ambassadors in the Regional Teachers Center.