Fulton’s four year old advisory program is helping connect students to school and convincing some of them to stay, district officials and teachers say.
The advisory program is part of the district’s effort to increase scores on state exams and reduce its dropout rate. Under the program, every student in grades 9-11 attends a class called “Advisory” each day. They are supposed to stay with the same teacher for that class for all three years.
The program grew out of the district’s detailed study of its dropout rate. “We saw that students (who dropped out) lacked connections to the school,” said Superintendent Bill Lynch, who noted that some dropouts said they went for days without talking to a teacher.
High school Principal Brian Buchanan said they wanted to remove barriers preventing students from learning. Having a teacher whom the student knew and could talk to is a key part of the strategy. “They are going to be able to count on at least one adult to brighten their day,” he said.
“This program has changed our building more than any other program,” said 10th grade teacher Jen Brown, one of the team leaders for the advisory program.
She and other advisory team leaders told the Board of Education stories of how they were able to help a student solve a problem that, in the past, might have led to the student giving up or dropping out.
It’s too soon to tell whether the program is improving the graduation rate; the first students to take advisory will graduate in 2011. However, the program’s backers point to the increased numbers of students taking the PSAT college prep exam in the last two years as an indicator that advisory is helping to keep students in school and thinking about their futures.