JEFF MEADORS: Involving students in academic advisement leads to greater success

It’s an educated twist on Ben Franklin’s “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Involving students in the academic advisement process improves student achievement, boosts student retention, increases completion rates, economizes credit hours, and is a good return on investment for taxpayers funding Georgia colleges and schools.

At a recent Eastside High School event I gained an inside look at a process setting Eastside apart from its secondary peers – every student in grades nine – 12 is involved in the advisement process; it is non-negotiable.

Is this non-negotiable the key to high graduation rates at Eastside?

Eastside’s current 88.1 percent graduation rate improved on an already admirable graduation rate by 1.4 percent to outperform every high school in Butts, Cherokee, Douglas, Jasper, Morgan, Newton, Putnam, Rockdale and Walton counties including Social Circle City. Eastside outperformed all of Gwinnett’s 23 high schools with the exception of three and dwarfed the state average of 71.5 by 16.6 percentage points.

If implemented with fidelity Eastside’s advisement initiative could be catalyst to 90 percent graduation rates, changing the conversation about the potential impact of public school leadership on student outcomes.

Colleges are on board.

Rachel Ensign writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education that “many colleges whose graduation rates have gone up markedly in recent years have relied heavily on academic counselors and faculty advisers to give students a clearer idea of the coursework needed to earn a degree.”

Hanover Research in 2011 in “Improving Student Retention and Graduation Rates” reviewed advisement initiatives at Armstrong Atlantic State University, Columbus State University, Georgia College & State University, Jacksonville State University, McNeese State University, Morehead State University, Northwestern State University of Louisiana, Radford University, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, University of Louisiana Monroe, University of North Alabama, Western Carolina University, and Winthrop University.

Hanover found that academic advisors, mentors and tutors are essential to student retention, success and completion.

Initiatives like Georgia State’s student success collaborative, electronic cohort academic monitoring at Georgia Perimeter College, and intensive individualized advisement at Eastside High School will pay off as students seek assistance with academic goals, academic skills and academic self-efficacy.

Georgia Perimeter offers free core subject area tutoring to support students. A 2004 ACT Policy Report shows the following as top contributors to student retention: the presence of tutoring on campus, a reading center or lab, an academic advising center, an increased number of academic advisors, supplemental instruction, and programs for honors students.

Citing top practices associated with student retention ACT again names tutoring, summer orientation, and an early warning system — all utilized at Georgia’s largest two-year unit, Georgia Perimeter College.

Colleges like Queens University of Charlotte, Champlain College, Chicago State, and University of Texas at Austin are among the increasing number of post-secondary schools implementing Early Academic Warning Systems aka EAWS.

And while the 88.1 percent graduation rate boasted by Eastside High School is a tall order, experts agree that advisement drives retention and completion for students lucky enough to enjoy it.

Columnist Jeff Meadors may be reached at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com