As with advisory scheduling, schools are adapting advisory content to meet their own needs. “Each school has a unique personality,” notes Felicia Swope, academic resource teacher at Whitney Young. “In order to make the advisory program work, you have to look at what the students’ concerns and needs are. At Whitney Young, we’re not going to be addressing issues of low GPA.”
Here are some of the variations:
To help raise reading scores, Austin High has incorporated a “Drop Everything and Read” program into advisory lesson plans. Academic Resource Teacher Katherine Haney says advisory helps the schools “satisfy many goals.”
At Tesla Alternative, a school for pregnant teens, advisory is used to give students health and medical information, as well as to discuss abstinence.
At both Bowen and Hyde Park, a news channel is piped into the classrooms to expose students to current events and issues.
The board’s curriculum guide for advisory has received mixed reviews.
Commenting on both the board’s model schedule and the curriculum guide, one teacher at Hyde Park says, “You can’t come in and say, ‘You’ve got to do it this way; if you don’t, you’re going to get your hands slammed.’ The old advisory program was hard. Did it work? Yes. Is the School Board one working? I don’t think so. Teacher’s don’t buy into it.”
Whitney Young’s Ray Rehak, a teacher and representative of a dissident caucus within the Chicago Teachers Union, also frowns on the board’s attempt to script teacher/student interaction. “You can’t just create a class called ‘Genuine Issues,'” he says. “It works on an interpersonal basis where, in time, people will confide in you.”
But other teachers have nothing but praise for advisories. “I think it’s really helped,”says Anita Maggio, a teacher at Bowen High. “I get to know [the kids], develop friendships with them. It’s invaluable.”