California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Advisory programs (homeroom)

Advisories and homerooms are not necessarily synonymous. Beyond roll call and daily bulletin announcements common to homerooms, advisory programs deliberately establish a connection between teacher and students. This connection can be in the form of academic advisement and coaching, student-led conferences and portfolio development, character and study skills development, discussion of current events, and packaged advisory program curricula.

In the Spotlight

Castaic Middle School, Castaic Union Elementary School District, a 2003 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
The Castaic Middle School schedule includes a 17-minute advisory period every day. The advisory period allows students to feel safe with one teacher who knows them well and who encourages them to develop their “voice” as an effective communicator.

Research studies demonstrate the effectiveness of middle grades advisory programs. One study found that the majority of students felt that advisory groups strengthened the bond between teachers and students. Another survey of seventh graders found that students in advisory programs reported higher levels of satisfaction with student-teacher and peer relationships than did students not enrolled in advisory programs. After controlling for differences in grade configurations and in student, school, and regional characteristics, another study found that principals whose schools had enacted advisory programs expected lower dropout rates than did those who did not have advisory programs in place.1

In the Spotlight

Granite Oaks Middle School, Rocklin Unified School District, a California Middle Grades Partnership Network School
Teachers and students are grouped in “academy” teams with similar numbers of students. Students stay in an academy so that it functions like an advisory program, giving students a community of adults and peers who know and support them. Each team takes care of discipline, scheduling, meetings with parents, and meetings with the principal. In addition, each team ensures that there is no difference in the curriculum: students in one grade level receive the same expectations, the same tests, and the same education no matter which academy houses them.

All staff members focus on knowing students and on learning. Whenever the principal or staff members see a student who has been struggling, they stop the student to ask how the work is going and often call the parent to see if the student can stay later to get additional help with difficult material.

Summit Intermediate School, Etiwanda Elementary School District, a 2005 California Distinguished School
Staff members at Summit are committed to helping both students and staff attain Personal Responsibility In Developing Excellence (PRIDE). During the daily 30-minute PRIDE period, teachers are able to develop a personal relationship with every student. This advisory period involves having students return to their homeroom teacher every day. Activities during PRIDE include roundtable discussions, team-building activities, and participation in the schoolwide character education program.

The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform developed criteria for high performing middle grades schools. Its School Self-Study and Rating Rubric asks schools to measure themselves against the criterion that "every student has a mentor, advisor, advocate, or other adult he/she trusts and stays in relationship with throughout the middle school experience".

In the Spotlight

Rio Norte Junior High School, William S. Hart Union High School District
Rio Norte teachers offer the "Teen Issues" class once each quarter so that every seventh grader can take it. The class discussions cover self-esteem, drugs, sexually transmitted diseases, conflicts, and bullying. Guest speakers talk with the students about goal setting, success, and abstinence. At the beginning of the course, all members of the class sign a Privacy Pledge and the teacher does not proceed until all students raise their hands agreeing to it. Once a quarter the school hosts a Parent Night where the teacher shares anonymous student concerns that surfaced during the course. The Teen Issues class rotates with the quarter-long “Exploratory Peace” class that explores diversity topics and helps students understand other cultures and ethnic groups.

The California Distinguished Schools Awards Web site lists middle schools that have identified advisory programs as one of their signature practices.

Qualified and caring teachers


1Jaana Juvonen, Vi-Nhuan Le, Tessa Kaganoff, Catherine Augustine, and Louay Constant, Focus on the Wonder Years—Challenges Facing the American Middle School (PDF; Outside Source). Arlington, Va.: Prepared by the Rand Corporation for the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 2004, 25.

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