Advisories target at-risk students

Michaela Edlin, Managing Editor

More than 50 freshman and 80 sophomore students in danger of not graduating are eligible to receive extra help in specialized advisory and tutorial classes.

This decision came after nearly a decade of trends in student data, showing that students who were failing multiple classes freshmen and sophomore year were more likely to fail high school.

Physical education teacher Laura Andersson, who is also adviser of the National Honor Society chapter, was one of the main drivers behind the decision.

The year between their freshman and sophomore year is “where students decide they’re either going to do well, or… tank,” she said.

Andersson said that academic intervention was necessary to aid these students.

“We could talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but talking about it does nothing,” she said. “We need action.”

The five specialized advisories are made up of 15-19 freshman and sophomore students, compared to the usual 28-32.
The small class sizes allow for more student attention; Andersson found through student interviews the past two years, one-on-one teacher connection can often aid students’ success.

For that reason, these classes meet every Monday and Friday. Mondays are used to help students plan for the week, and Fridays are for reflection.

English teacher Barbara Arduini is one of the teachers who teaches a specialized advisory class. She has noticed that attendance is spotty with two advisory classes a week.

“They all come on Friday, if they’re on campus,” she said. “On the (extra) Monday, it’s kind of hit or miss.”

For Arduini, taking on the extra advisory for at-risk students is a meaningful task.

“I’m not getting paid extra to do this,” she said, “It’s just something I’m doing because I care about them individually.”

The new advisory program has similar goals for AVID students, with the distinction that AVID students are on a college-going track.

“AVID is targeted at students who are already doing well, but they don’t have the resources at home to necessarily know what the right path is or what classes they should take,” Cheryl Lawton said.

The special advisory classes are for students who are struggling with school and need the motivation to improve their experience at Branham.

The curriculum is also slightly altered. Teachers focus on helping students make a formalized plan for every week that addresses academic stressors, as well as bonding to create connections between these students and their teachers.

The classes aren’t only just to improve grades, or even necessarily for students who are struggling academically; the goal is to better the high school experience. That may mean improving grades and attendance.

For others, the program can provide another reliable adult whom students can count on, as the teachers chosen have a record of working with under-performing students.

The new program has created issues with normal tutorials.

“The hardest thing about it is not having the extra tutorial for my other students,” Arduini said.

These students instead have to come during other times for help.

Additionally, due to the size of the specialized advisories, other advisories have had to expand in order to compensate for all students.

Finally, the freshman Link Crew program has been interrupted, with some leaders losing entire classes. Fresh-
men in the advisory classes do not meet with their Link Crew leaders, but this may change.