When Dr. Roger Fuller, upper school principal, approached the student body on January 10 to discuss the new year, he described the significance of the Roman God Janus, who has the ability to see in the past and future simultaneously. At Milken, as the school transitions to the second semester, January is the time to reflect on the first semester and plan for the upcoming year. This year, Fuller introduced a concrete plan for academic advising.
The school has designed a new opportunity for students to explore Milken’s course offerings through “Step-Up Day,” which is set for May 27 this year, modeled after the university-level “shopping” period. This day will serve as a mock run-thru, with shortened periods, of students’ planned schedules. It will allow students to meet teachers and learn the curriculum, while also providing an opportunity to add or drop any classes. This process is intended to reduce the needless and frantic add/drop emails sent to the administration during the summer.
“We’ve finally brought a coherence throughout the academic advising program that we haven’t had before,” Fuller said.
Throughout January, students are encouraged to meet with their advisors to plot out their schedules for the upcoming year. Once their schedules are chosen, the students submit their requests online through Net Classroom. A new addition to the program this year is that all freshmen are required to meet with their advisors and parents to discuss the courses and programs that are available for their upcoming year on March 14.
As students immerse themselves in the course selection process, they are also able to view their current transcripts on Net Classroom.
“The direction of the school will be to work towards making progress notes and grades more accessible to parents and students through an online mechanism,” Fuller said.
By the third quarter, the school is planning on allowing access to third quarter progress reports through Net Classroom. By the fourth quarter, the school hopes that the grades will be accessible only online. Immediacy is the main reason for the change to online transcripts.
In order to decrease an overreliance on grade-centered learning, the transcripts will be taken down on February 4. Fuller explains that he does not want learning to only be a pursuit of grades.
The purpose of academic advising is to provide an individual plan to meet individual student needs. However, Fuller emphasizes that students should not create a “wish list” of all the courses they feel like taking. He says the school focuses on the students’ needs first and then their wants.
In examining each student’s needs, the assistant principals will then diagnose each student with the most challenging options available.
“An educational need is the result of study and reflection, interaction and discussion, and the need to advance or remediate a set of skill sets and aptitudes,” Fuller said. “When a course selection and registration system is built around needs, then student achievement is enhanced; when it is only built on want, building a coherent set of courses within a framework is much more challenging.”
The next three months of the school year play a pivotal role in academic advising. Fuller explains that in January students select courses for the upcoming year, in February they review and revise those choices with their advisors, and in March the assistant principals finalize every students’ schedule.