E.V. schools hope ‘advisory hour’ forges better bonds - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

E.V. schools hope ‘advisory hour’ forges better bonds

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Posted: Sunday, September 18, 2011 6:00 am | Updated: 12:47 am, Mon Oct 10, 2011.

Struggling with math? Meet with students who are facing the same situation. Need to complete a quiz? Go visit your teacher.

Want to learn how to create a resume? Take a seat.

A handful of East Valley high schools are using short blocks of time daily this school year to craft better relationships between students and instructors, and allow teaching of life skills that may not fit into the normal routine of math, science, English or social studies.

"Advisory hour" allows students to make better connections with their peers and teachers, provides a designated time for schoolwide events, and creates a school-day opportunity for students to get additional academic help, administrators at those schools say.

"Advisory hour," isn't necessarily an hour. In the case of Gilbert's Campo Verde High School, it's just 25 minutes - but it is proving beneficial, principal Jared Ryan said.

Campo Verde experimented with "Pack Time" during its first few years of existence, Ryan said. But after hearing feedback from students, parents and teachers about the hourlong Friday program, school leaders changed it to a daily, but shortened, offering this year. No other Gilbert high school is participating.

All students are assigned a teacher that they will stay with their entire high school career. Every teacher in the school is assigned a group of students.

Twice a week, students participate in peer tutoring, where they can meet with other students struggling with similar subjects or work on individual assignments. Other days teachers lead the activities, from guiding students through career interestsurveysand helping them create academic portfolios to teaching study skills.It also creates set time each week for school assemblies.

"A big portion of the philosophy is no student goes unrecognized or falls through the cracks without us recognizing there is an issue," Ryan said.

The school carved the 25-minute period out of its previous lunch schedule - which had been 60 minutes.

Campo Verde senior Brett Robinson, 17, said he likes the opportunity to get academic help from his peers.

"If I have questions or homework, I can ask one of my friends. They can help me out with math or English," he said. "It's just nice to hear it from a friend."

Mesa's East Valley Academy - a smaller, alternative school located at the Mesa Unified School District's education center - is experimenting with advisory periods this year as well, said principal Tim Keilty.

There are 250 students at the high school. All of the school's certified staff are assigned a small group - 15 to 20 kids - to work with. Those teachers get grade reports weekly to see where students need help, he said.

The advisory period also allows time for students to meet in programs like student council or Native American club. And on Fridays, the school uses that time for community building or service learning projects.

"We're personalizing the learning environment. It's about them and they know it. It's all about personal relationships," Keilty said.

Tempe Union High School District's Mountain Pointe High School added "academic lab" back into its schedule this year after dropping it a few years ago, assistant principal Mary Keller said. The 40-minute, twice a week program requires that students with a D or an F in a class seek out help during that time.

For students who are performing better, the Tuesday and Thursday time slot can be used for homework, group projects, study time, visiting with college recruiters and more, she said. The more successful students may also be peer tutors during that time.

"The goal is to show them: You go, you work hard, you get choices you can make, positive ones you can go do during that time," Keller said. "It's more than just an advisory hour. It's really a focus on student achievement."

Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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