The FWSU Story: Advisory and “Flex” Time at BFA High School

As we work to provide support for our students in our proficiency based high school, BFA has started the year with new systems and structures built into our daily schedule. The changes center around our daily “Advisory” time with the goal of improving access to intervention and enrichment for all students.

In the past, our Advisory time was a half hour at the end of every day where students could get assistance from teachers, work on homework, attend club meetings, prepare for their exhibitions, schedule classes, review their academic progress, and hold class meetings. Students were assigned an Advisor as they entered high school and worked with that advisor through graduation. One of the goals of this system was to foster a relationship between the student and their advisor so that every student had at least one trusted adult in the building. 

Having a trusted adult in the building is an important marker of success in high school. Our Youth Risk and Behavior Survey results showed that around 80% of our students reported that they did have at least one trusted adult. At quick glance this seems like a fairly positive statistic, but when you look through the other lens, it means that 1 in 5 of our students reported that they did not have that trusted adult. It seemed that in our quest to have Advisory fill so many needs, we may have lost out on the relationship aspect that we knew to be so important.

Our approach to address that need while still providing an opportunity for all of the other important work and needs of our students had two components. First, we separated out a part of the day for Advisory based solely on connections and relationships. Second, we acquired a software system that allows students to be flexibly scheduled based on their academic and personal needs.

Ninth Grade Advisory Activity

Advisory is held every morning after block one. Students meet with their advisor for 10 minutes. The goal is to build connections between students and their advisor and among all the students in that advisory. Each advisory group has developed a schedule of activities for the week. The activities might include “Weekend Check-in”, “Trivia Tuesday”, “Game Day”, “Walkabout Wednesday” or “Question of the Week”. This gives students some predictability, purpose, and buy-in. 

Tenth Grade Advisory Group Discussion

“I love it. It’s nice to have one clear focus of connecting with kids for that time everyday”

– Will Brooks, SS Teacher

Every afternoon, we hold a “Flex Block”. On Monday, all students meet with their advisory teacher to develop a schedule for the week based on their academic needs, interests, and goals using the Adaptive Scheduler software. 9th and 10th grade students are scheduled to be with their advisors every Monday and Wednesday to work on Exhibition related tasks. Students are able to schedule themselves for the rest of their week, unless one of their teachers has requested them. 

Sample 9th grade Flex Schedule

Teachers can schedule students to come directly to their room for academic intervention or enrichment. The goal is for students to recognize when and where they will need support and plan ahead. Teachers are able to provide more timely support for students through the scheduling process. 

Students can schedule themselves for club meetings and wellness activities if their proficiency levels are met. This system has eliminated the time needed to check in with their advisor before going to another teacher for assistance. Attendance is taken based on where students have selected. It may sound complicated, but with just a few “clicks” student weekly schedules are developed based on their individual needs. 

Sample 11th grade Flex Schedule

“I like Flex Block a lot better this year. The list system we used last year wasn’t efficient. This year we have our own flexibility. I’m glad we still have Mandatory Monday”

– Abigail S., Grade 11 student

Our work as high school this year is to continue developing a culture that supports proficiency, intervention, and equity. These changes are an important part of that work. We will continue to develop systems to provide timely intervention and enrichment options for our students as they work toward our Proficiency Based Graduation Requirements.

John Tague is the Principal of BFA Fairfax High School and is a regular contributor to THE FWSU STORY. You can follow him @jtague252