Public School Change: One Advisory At A Time

The Wildwood Outreach Center continues shaping teacher practice and student learning in public high schools on both the East Coast and the West Coast.

Landmark High School in New York City and The Banning Academies of Creative and Innovative Sciences (BACIS) in Los Angeles both are consulting closely with the Wildwood Outreach Center for a second year to shape their advisory programs with a view toward student achievement.

Landmark High School—New York City

The Rustin Educational Complex in Chelsea-- Home to Landmark High School

The Rustin Educational Complex in Chelsea– Home to Landmark High School

A third visit to Landmark in November focused on measuring the positive changes to the school’s advisory program—in both student and teacher attitudes about advisory, and plans for ensuring future student success.

During an initial visit to Landmark in April, it was clear that students at this small, urban public high school benefit from a highly engaged and reform-minded teacher corps. The spirited and thoughtful debate here about how to best serve student is invigorating. Even more impressive: in a very challenging environment, these teachers are not only engaged, but positive, and very optimistic about the opportunities for their students. It would be impossible not to be inspired by this group.

Student art abounds at Landmark

Student art abounds at Landmark

The Outreach Center’s work with the full faculty began with re-focusing a new set of goals for the school’s advisory program. After fifteen years, the leadership team paused to assess, and assign tasks and plan for strengthening the existing program. Landmark High uses Wildwood’s Advisory Toolkit and shares Wildwood’s fundamental belief in the value of helping students foster relationships with influential adults and keeping advisory central to their school’s educational mission.

Landmark HS ClassroomWe began our work together by mapping a plan for the school’s re-envisioned advisory, and in a return trip in August, put the plan into action—working with the full faculty to help them develop their own advising skills, as well as provide tips on leading advisory sessions. As we wrapped up our engagement in early November— the work focused on collaborating with the faculty to assess their program’s success and solidify plans to keep the program strong and serving the needs of Landmark students. Particular areas of growth were identified—greater consistency of the program from advisory to advisory, as well as deepening students’ familiarity with their peers—while several faculty member will be working on making the advisory curriculum and activities more relevant to students’ lives.

A thoughtful approach to moving forward, the Wildwood way.

The Banning Academies of Creative and Innovative Scieces (BACIS)—Wilmington, Calif.

BACIS's home campus: Banning HS in Wilmington, Calif.

BACIS’s home campus: Banning HS in Wilmington (from The Daily Breeze)

BACIS is a new Los Angeles Unified Small Learning Community school on the Wilmington campus of Banning High School near the Port of LA.  The school is dedicated to graduating students with specialized preparation for college and careers in engineering, manufacturing, digital arts, and computer science.

Science teacher Adam Paskowitz, who heads the BASICS design team, attended an advisory program workshop at Wildwood several years ago. His strong impressions prompted him to reach out to Wildwood when it came time to design BACIS because he understood that a strong advisory program needed to be at core of the new school’s mission.

The Wildwood Outreach Center began working with the BACIS design team last spring, and continued through the summer until the program was launched this fall.

Early on we were listening to what the faculty wanted for their students, helping them design a site specific program that, like Wildwood’s, puts a strong emphasis on the development of real relationships between students and with an advisor .

After listening to the BASICS staff over the course of several meetings, the Outreach Center designed the structure for the weekly schedule that accommodated what the design team wanted to accomplish through their advisory program—personalizing students’ school experiences, building a strong home/school connection, academic preparedness and career readiness, and academic tenacity. The Outreach Center provided curriculum to get the program up and running and teacher training in some essential teaching techniques with which most Wildwood middle and upper schools students would be familiar—chalk talk, four corners, and fishbowl.

Wildwood Outreach Director Steve Barrett address the BACIS Community

Wildwood Outreach Director Steve Barrett address the BACIS Community

This fall, the school welcomed it’s first 9th grade class of over 200 students. Advisory is a central part of the program, and will build out over the next three years as the faculty adjusts the advisory offering to meet the evolving needs of their students in this urban school where most of the students receive access to free or reduced-cost lunch—a common indicator of low socio-economic status. What’s most important is that BACIS students benefit from having determined, enthusiastic teachers who are dedicated to preparing them for college and careers that our new century will offer.

In August, the design team asked Wildwood Outreach Center Director, Steve Barrett, to address over 400 parents and students at BACIS’s orientation night, highlighting the new advisory program’s benefit to students and their learning, and how to use and get the most out of it.

Our work continues with BACIS as we provide program support, observing advisories and giving feedback to teachers on their practice, along with designing curriculum to meet their needs as their program grows.

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