The proactive philosophy of the Upper School guidance program encourages connecting with each student; guidance is a cultural facet of student life at the Upper School. The program is overseen by the Director of Guidance and is staffed by over thirty members of the Upper School faculty, who act as student group advisers. By meeting with students formally and informally, through one-on-one conversations and larger group meetings, advisers and the Director offer students a pressure-free address for their social and academic problems and concerns, as well as a friendly adult with whom to speak.
Guidance department faculty members also respond to specific concerns about students or issues that are raised by parents, faculty, or other students. The guidance office deals with social, personal, emotional, and academic issues through a team process that involves parents, administrators, and faculty advisers. When students enter the Upper School from both the Middle School and other feeder schools, the department is advised of guidance issues that pertain to incoming students. Such a process is firmly based on the trust of the student whose needs are being addressed. Confidentiality is inviolate, unless the safety of the student is at risk.
Faculty advisers come from both the Judaic and General studies faculty, and each spend three years linked with a group of 13-15 students. They act as mentors, offering the perspective of an adult who understands the Ramaz system from within, and provide a sympathetic ear when advocacy is required. The Director of Guidance and the administration regularly meet with advisers in groups and individually, and monitor the progress of all students. Students continue with the same adviser from ninth grade through eleventh grade, at which time their college advisers assume the guidance role.
Adviser groups are constructed before students arrive for the first time in the Upper School, are coed, and have a mix of students from various feeder elementary schools. Throughout each of the four years, advisers, the Director, administration, and parents all work together to anticipate and react to student concerns. When outside professional intervention is needed, the Director refers the student to a professional, and acts as the coordinator among parents, student, administration, and the professional.
Advisers and the Director regularly meet with advisees in both one-on-one and group settings, discussing topics relevant to social and academic pressures that students may be experiencing. Recognizing that each grade has its own group identity and its own age and gender specific issues, it is often the students themselves who propose the topics for discussion. These meetings also allow students an opportunity to find expression for any dissatisfaction that they may have about daily life at Ramaz. The guidance program also conducts larger group meetings that address topics in a more formal way. When such meetings involve parents, - possibly exclusively - they take place in the evening. Such issues are often initially addressed at Parents' Liaison Committee meetings, which allows for parent input in planning responses to issues as well as guidance programming.
The Director of Guidance also regularly meets with the Director of the Learning Center, monitoring issues relating to students in the Learning Center. The guidance department faculty monitor those students who are accommodated in the Learning Center, and work together with Learning Center faculty, parents, and the students themselves to help the students deal with their learning issues and related emotional issues.
Students seeking the services of the Learning Center must receive a psycho-educational evaluation by an outside tester. Test results are reviewed, and students may be eligible for certain accommodations, including extended time for test-taking and laptops for use during exams. Based on the recommendations of the tester, students may also receive remediation from the Learning Center faculty.
The Learning Center is staffed by one part-time math specialist, one full-time and one part-time Judaic Studies faculty members, and one full-time and one part-time general studies faculty member. These faculty meet with the students' regular teachers and advisers both formally and informally, and communicate with parents during parent-teacher conferences and by telephone.
Students are helped to become independent learners. The goal is for them to outgrow the Learning Center when they feel comfortable to do so, and in twelfth grade, its services are optional, although the faculty are available for the students. The Learning Center and guidance department ideally operate as a partnership between student, adviser, Learning Center faculty, administration, and parents, who all together are able to provide a framework of support and encouragement for the student.