Tula H, Junior
New year, new changes! If you’re a returning student at Northwest, the 2018 school year brought a change to our schedules: mixed-grade advisories have inaugurated into Upper School students’ school week. Though the switch was a surprise to some, many students heard of the decision from peers and teachers last year. The new system is a significant transformation from last year’s advisory, where students within the same grade-level were assigned to teachers for a one-year period. However, the current program integrates students from all grade-levels and pairs them with faculty for all four years of high school. This advisory format has sparked conversation among the community: is the transition an improvement or a detriment to our high school experience?
I sent an anonymous survey to all upper school students with one question: Do you prefer mixed-grade advisory or same-grade advisory? Out of the 133 responses, the results were overwhelmingly “same grade,” chosen by 75.2% of survey participants. Anonymous students explained who they felt more comfortable in a same-grade space where they could relate to fellow advisees and seek relevant homework help. Junior Sarah R. echoed the words of fellow surveyors, stating, “Last year’s advisory was a space to discuss issues and curriculum within our own grade. I think advisory is an important space to have those kinds of discussions. It’s better when your advisor is an expert on your own grade, whether they are a teacher or someone handling your grade’s specific activities.”
However, there is a minority of upper-school students who support mixed-grade advisories. Junior Anna H. is optimistic about this year’s advisory, because she will “get more variety of perspectives.” Other survey respondents agreed, adding that they were excited to form bonds with people from different grades. The revised system also has the potential to deepen connections between students and faculty. Junior Atticus M. expressed such hopefulness: stating he now had “the ability to stay with one advisor for multiple years and form a relationship.” Many poll respondents touched on this point too—while they may not be able to ask their advisor about homework or grade level-specific issues, they will have a faculty member focused on their well-being throughout high school.
Although the majority of students that answered the survey wished for the return of same-grade advisories, junior Puja C. brought up an important point. “We’re just not used to something new, and we need to try it out first.” The survey was sent out after only several advisory sessions, thus the results merely represent an initial response. As several respondents remarked, the survey would have collected for more partisan data had it been sent out later in the year. The Northwest community is still in the process of adjusting to the system. As Puja wisely states, while the community is still adjusting to this unfamiliar program, “we have to have an open mindset to trying new things.” Over time our opinions on the new program may strengthen or shift, but for now students should continue to attend their advisories with a positive attitude.