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Why an advisory at Ottoson?
What the research says…
The Mission of the Ottoson Advisory Program is to create a sense of community through team building and reflective practices in a small group setting where students feel supported and known.
The OMS advisory mission stems from the teacher’s identification in a June 2013 teacher survey of “personalization” as a primary concern of theirs for their students. OMS students are entering a large school that will only be getting larger. Population projections for OMS for the next 3-5 years indicate an increasing student population. The question that the Leadership Team raised is, how can we make OMS feel like a small school where each student is known well, cared for, and challenged academically?
By design, an advisory system addresses this question and supports students in their academic learning.  Research points to the effectiveness and importance of this connection between social-emotional health and academic growth embedded in advisory program design: “Previous research has shown positive effects of school-based SEL [Social Emotional Learning] programs on academic achievement…’[1]
“Studies of high-risk children and adolescents who show resilience in the face of trauma and stress often report one or two adults that took a special interest in them and became invested in their success.” [2]
“The [Common Core] standards do not explicitly address the quality of the learning environment or the culture of respect, responsibility, and excellence that must be in place for optimal student learning.  Every student needs to feel that the school has a deep commitment to preserving his or her safety, worth, and dignity.”[3]
Studies of advisories themselves are challenging because most schools create their own unique advisory system along with additional school reform measures, making generalizations difficult; however, ”Generally, studies have shown that students who don’t feel an attachment to school staff are likely to have poorer attendance and to drop out more than students who feel that they are part of a supportive school environment. In addition, healthy relationships between teachers and students appear to facilitate academic achievement. Advisory can contribute to this type of positive school climate in several ways, including:
  • Improved relationships between students and teachers (Espe, 1993; Totten & Nielson, 1994)
  • An increased sense of trust and belonging (Ziegler & Mulhall, 1994)
  • Better communication among all members of the school community (Simmons & Kiarich, 1989)
  • A strong atmosphere of equality (Putbrese, 1989)
  • Reduced student smoking and alcohol use (Putbrese, 1989)[4]
During the 2013-14 School year, the OMS Leadership Team did their own research on advisories in nearby school districts (Cambridge and Wayland), and based on the positive outcomes of those visits decided to move forward on a plan to pilot advisory in the 2014-2015 school year. They turned the work of planning and curriculum development over to an Advisory Design Team that included core academic teachers, specialist teachers, and administrative and union representatives (January 2014). The Leadership Team and/or the Advisory Design Team have also had two meetings with the Union (January and May), reported out to the whole faculty twice and conducted an advisory PD at the May 6th faculty meeting. Administration is strongly supportive and has collaborated with the Leadership Team and Advisory Design team to help with logistics, student and teacher assignments, resources and support.
Summer work for the Advisory Design Team includes curriculum design and planning for an August PD for teachers in preparation to open the Advisory Program in September.

The Advisory Coordinator for 2016-17 is Ms. Haley Kulow. Please contact her for more information