School Council Releases Draft Proposal

By Rio Bauce
Tuesday October 23, 2007

Berkeley High’s School Governance Council released a draft earlier this month of their proposal for an advisory program they plan to implement in fall 2008 for Berkeley International High School and Academic Choice students. 

The other small schools will have their own advisory program.  

The purpose of the advisory program is to help students create a vision of their future by getting them to develop a five-year plan.The desired outcomes of the program are outlined in the School Advisory Program Proposal, which Principal Jim Slemp plans to introduce to the Berkeley Board of Education as soon as Nov. 14. They are as follows: 1) To help students create a vision for their future by developing a five year plan by their junior year that will take them through graduation and into postsecondary education; 2) Students will understand how to access support services, set personal and academic goals and develop a plan to monitor and achieve their goals; 3) Students will demonstrate skills to manage conflict in a positive and productive manner; 4) Students will experience an adult advocate who knows and cares about them and can strategize ways to improve their success; 5) Students will be their own advocate and take responsibility for their own education; 6) Students will work together to develop a community of peers to support their personal and academic goals.  

Sherene Randle, advisory curriculum coordinator, as well as co-leader of Academic Choice and an English teacher, says that Berkeley High is in the process of refining the goals and outcomes of the advisory program. 

“There has been a lot of discussion regarding whether the classes should have students of all grades, or be broken up by grade, or have ninth- and tenth-graders in one class and eleventh- and twelfth-graders in other classes,” she said. “There are a lot of possible combinations.” 

Randle unveiled the proposed plan of a sample advisory period. On Tuesday, the first five minutes would be devoted to attendance, the next five minutes would be for announcements, for the 30 minutes after there would be a community building activity, and then the for last five minutes there would be an exit ticket (where teachers evaluate their students). On Wednesdays, there would be attendance and announcements for five minutes each, then there would be reflective writing, discussions, or tutorials for 25 to 30 minutes, and then the last five to ten minutes would be for another community building activity. 

“Of course, the teachers have some leeway in what they teach and could switch the schedules for Tuesdays and Wednesdays if they wish,” commented Randle. 

There has been discussion regarding how to incorporate an advisory time that fits into the master schedule. Initial ideas brought up included block scheduling, shorter periods, et cetera. However, the SGC decided that twice a week, there will be block scheduling with three periods a day and a 45-minute advisory period. Students will be given a pass or fail grade for the advisory.  

Students generally feel that the advisory program is beneficial, but are skeptical about block scheduling.  

“I guess that the advisory could be good, but it depends how it is done,” said junior Scott Johnston. “In general, I think that block scheduling is a terrible idea. Many departments would be adversely affected by the change in scheduling.” 

In this plan, Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays would follow the normal bell schedule, but on Wednesdays and Thursdays, there would be a modified block bell schedule. On Tuesdays, there would be periods one, three, and five (each one-hundred minutes long), with an advisory period between first and third periods (45 minutes) and a 40-minute lunch break between third and fifth periods. On Wednesdays, students would go to periods two, four, and six, with the advisory period and lunch break the same as Tuesday. 

Randle said, “The goal is to personalize the experience for students in this large urban school. Graduates tell me that the school is ‘large, overwhelming, and impersonal.’ We want to change that.”