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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Action Research: Classroom Management & School Culture:
Being Known: A Pilot Advisory Program

by Leslie Jirsa

(Following is the first page of Leslie's action research. For the complete paper, click on the red button on the right.)

Research Question
Would a small, intimate “advisory” group help my students with no history of academic success graduate from high school?

I teach in a New York City public high school of approximately 600 students. My students range in age between 17-21. We are one of 28 remaining schools actually classified as “Alternative” left in the New York City public school system.

Of our 600 kids, approximately 80% are recently immigrated Chinese students. These students are enrolled in an intensive, sophisticated English as a Second Language (ESL) program offered by our school, and the college rate of our Chinese students is exceptionally high.

The remaining, “other” 20% is a wandering, languishing, frustrated group of mostly African American and Hispanic American students expelled from other New York City public schools. These kids seek a “second chance” to receive a regular high school diploma in a place where they can keep trying until they turn 21. The most common reason for the prior expulsion of these students is failure; most of these students simply flunked out of their previous schools. These students rarely pass all of their classes in any given semester, few of them actually graduate from our school, and very few of them go on to college.

I teach almost all of these “20%” students in my mainstream English literature classes, and I know them very well. From talking to and working closely with many of them, I have discovered that most of these students have long histories of very poor or very inconsistent attendance, and repeated failures of the same classes over and over again. I watch them wander the hallways, fight sleep, cut class, and give up. At the end of each marking period, I watch them grapple sadly for just enough points to pass, and so often I watch them walk out our door and vanish as though they were never here.

These students have become very important to me over the course of my three years at my school. They are considered “minorities” even within our public school, and they are spoken of and to in a group. They are often dismissed for reasons some associate with race and background, and their talents and worries go largely unnoticed. These are, of course, individual students with individual issues who, in the end, do not get what they need: An adult at our school to know them, and to use that knowledge to help them succeed.

The Study
This year, with the support of my administration, I created a small pilot advisory program to try to reach some of the most academically “at risk” students falling in this 20%. In exploring the advantages of advisory programs documented by countless educational publications, school mission statements, pedagogies, and fellow educators, I wondered if such a program might help some of these students graduate. I thought that perhaps regular meetings of small groups of students, led by trained staff members might help identify and address some of the obstacles these students face, which might lead to graduation.

To the full paper.

Leslie Jirsa

Research Focus:
Advisory Groups

TNLI Affiliate:
New York City

HS 515 Lower East Side Preparatory High School
145 Stanton Street
New York NY10002

If you would like to learn more about Teachers Network Leadership Institute, please e-mail Kimberly Johnson for more information.



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