So, you’ve formed an advisory committee—or at least are in the process of putting one together. Where do you go from here?
Perhaps the best way to know what to do with your advisory committee is to see what the National Quality Program Standards has to say about it. Following are just a few of the standards related to advisory committees, and how two teachers have used their advisory committees to help improve and grow their programs.
The advisory committee meets regularly and maintains minutes of each meeting.
After you’ve cast your advisory committee roles, it’s time to make some basic decisions, such as how often to meet and how to run the meetings. “We meet at least three times a year, but generally four to five times a year. We run our meetings as a legitimate business meeting,” says Aaron Albisu, agriculture instructor at Spring Creek High School in Spring Creek, Nev., and advisor for the Silver Sage FFA Chapter. Albisu’s advisory committee takes minutes and discusses the previous meeting’s minutes at each gathering. They also cover what’s gone on since the previous meeting, and they discuss “hot topics,” he says. “Those might be issues our department is facing, events or big grants coming up, or consideration of program areas to grow or maintain,” Albisu says. “Then we have ideas. Everyone talks about what they’ve heard, good or bad, about the FFA, the agriculture program or agriculture in general, and how we should address those things.”
Carla Travis, agriculture instructor for Northeast Metro, a technical center in White Bear, Minn., serving 16 area high schools, has an advisory committee full of vets, vet techs, and small business owners—all very busy individuals. The group meets only twice a year, including one advisory committee breakfast, but they remain active year-round. “We do a lot of e-mails and conference calls with the members we need at the time,” Travis says.
The advisory committee assists with all aspects of program operations including an evaluation, promotion, planning, instruction and assessment of student learning.
Travis takes advantage of her advisory committee in several ways. “They provide me with industry standards, what the employment market is, and they review my curriculum and let me know what the industry needs us to add or eliminate,” she says. “They also make recommendations for equipment and facility needs, and they serve as guest speakers and help with our events.”
Albisu uses his advisory committee as advocates when opinion leaders are needed. “We empower our advisory committee to be involved if there’s an issue,” he says. “If we feel a phone call is needed on behalf of the industry or area a committee member represents, they can do that to encourage more funds, more facilities, etc. We also have them all sign grant applications and anything we’re pushing as advisors. All those signatures show that they have involvement and support the idea.” Albisu’s advisory committee members also serve on other school and district FFA committees, expanding the chapter’s areas of influence.
Both Travis and Albisu use the advisory committee for high-level planning and promotion, but both also encourage members to get directly involved with student learning. “If my students need information, they can call on the advisory committee members. For example, if they want to know what it takes to be a vet tech, they can call one of our vet techs on the committee,” Travis says.
Albisu says his advisory committee members are highly involved with CDEs, serving as judges at practice events and state competitions, and they are always available at events and to help with transportation and other needs. “They’re always there to help, answer questions, put out fires, light some fires,” he says.
Information on local, state and national performance measures are collected for program improvement and enhanced student learning.
Data collection can seem an overwhelming task, but the standards make it fairly simple. Nevada has adopted the AET, a new online record book, and Albisu uses that program to collect student data. “We track each kid’s contests, gender, proficiency test scores, projects, SAEs, future plans, etc. Then our state supervisor collects data on all the students in the state and breaks it down by school, by student,” he says. “We share all that data with the advisory committee, and they help us use it to justify the programs and positions. It helps with grant applications, and it helps maintain successful programs and fund programs that need support. With the data, we can actually show an administrator what’s working and what needs more support and why.” Travis also tracks student data, such as student scores and college choices.
Information is collected from community partners relative to their expectations and current assessment of program quality and the success of students.
A formal annual program evaluation based on local performance information, state performance measures and input from community stakeholder groups is conducted.
Albisu’s committee has also been involved in assessing the agriculture program using the National Quality Program Standards tools. “They’ve been involved in the NQPS and have gone through the assessment of our needs, weakness and strengths,” he says. “They make suggestions as to how we could improve.”
Travis says her advisory committee helps the program with a four-part assessment process:
- Assess program elements using the Standards
- Select areas to target for achievement (July)
- Evaluate progress (March)
- Celebrate results (and begin again)
Minnesota was one of the first 10 states to pilot the Standards, and one role of the advisory committee was to help them use the Standards for evaluation. The evaluation involved input from the advisory committee, the school board, the principal, students, the director and state representatives. “I definitely think the assessment and evaluation help the agriculture program,” Travis says. “We’ve found when you have the Standards, you see what you’re needing to do and what you’re already doing well. It’s all there in front of you. And it helps us put a positive spin on us, to highlight what we’re doing and how it helps students grow.”
Clearly, your advisory committee can take a lead role in supporting your program and its students. Use the NQPS to guide you, and you’ll have advisory committee members who help you see your program and community clearly and who become your best advocates as you strive to create a program that serves the needs of students, school and community.