High schools across the country are offering an elective class that advocates say gives middle-of-the-road students extra support as they prepare for college.
AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a nonprofit college-readiness program designed to help students develop the skills they need to be successful in college. The program places special emphasis on growing writing, critical thinking, teamwork, organization and reading skills.
“AVID lessons are also designed around teaching tenacity, grit, perseverance, persistence,” says Lori Wyborney, principal of Rogers High School in Spokane, Washington.
The class is now offered at more than 2,500 U.S. high schools, according to Dennis Johnston, senior director and chief research officer at AVID.
Students in the class usually take it throughout their high school career, and with the same group of students. AVID is offered as an elective, though some districts have adapted its strategies across the school system.
“We have put an emphasis on using AVID instructional strategies. AVID outlines a set of research strategies that align with best practices and current research for providing instruction across all content areas,” says Adam Swinyard, associate superintendent for teaching and learning at Spokane Public Schools. “All of our schools have put an emphasis on that, as well as an emphasis that AVID utilizes around college and career readiness, awareness, exploration and building the aspirations of students.”
For parents considering the class for their high school student, there are three things to keep in mind about the AVID program:
- How to determine if AVID is a good fit.
- What AVID students learn.
- How AVID students perform after high school.
How to Determine if AVID Is a Good Fit
The best students for the class are usually the B or C students who have shown potential, Johnston says. “All students are eligible to enroll in the AVID elective. However, what we have found over our 40 years is that those students who benefit the most are in the academic middle.”
AVID students are often those underrepresented on college campuses, he adds, such as low-income or first-generation students.
“What we really look for is the kids who will be the first in their family to get into a four-year university. And that’s not an absolute, but the majority of our AVID kids are going to be first-generation college-going,” Wyborney says.
Students generally begin the AVID class during ninth or 10th grade, Johnston says, because it takes a couple of years for the methods taught in the class to be effective. All go through an extensive application process, which includes an interview.
What AVID Students Learn
The curriculum focuses on building skills and developing behaviors that lead to success.
“AVID teaches kids how to do school,” Johnston says.
Students learn skills like note-taking, reading and writing strategies and how to interact with peers and work in groups. They can then practice those skills in more challenging courses, such as honors and Advanced Placement classes, that they may be required to take.
“We push really hard for all our students to try at least one Advanced Placement class,” Wyborney says, noting that many students take more.
According to data from AVID, at least 78% of class of 2018 seniors in the program took one college-level course in high school.
In addition to steering students toward a rigorous academic curriculum, the AVID program focuses heavily on college readiness.
“It’s built upon the idea that students need more than content knowledge to be successful in a college experience, in a postsecondary experience. They need critical thinking skills to be able to evaluate, analyze, synthesize,” Swinyard says. “They need specific skills around goal-setting, time management and note-taking. They also need information and awareness around just what that process looks like to apply for financial aid, to apply to colleges and to look for scholarships.”
Each teacher decides on the assignments and activities they use to teach the skills. Interested teachers volunteer for the AVID elective course, and Johnston says anyone can teach the class once they’ve learned how to apply AVID strategies in the classroom.
Students may learn how to approach a challenging problem through tutoring, practice their research and writing skills while preparing for discussions about current events or be explicitly taught how to take notes, for example.
They also can explore different careers and learn about the college application process – all of which helps get across the message that learning isn’t limited to one subject or classroom.
“The class is really designed to put those students in a group and experience on a daily basis, and really building that well-rounded skill set that kids need to be successful after high school,” Swinyard says.
How AVID Students Perform After High School
Wyborney credits climbing graduation rates at Rogers in part to applying AVID strategies across the high school.
“AVID, for my school, has just really helped us turn a corner,” she says.
But how do AVID students fare academically after graduating from high school?
According to a 2017 study out of Washington, 98% of seniors in AVID partner schools graduated on time, 94% had plans to attend a postsecondary institution and 93% had completed entrance requirements for a four-year college.
According to the AVID website, first-generation low-income students who go through the program are much more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years than their peers nationwide without an AVID experience, at a rate of 42% to 11%.
Johnston sees those numbers as proof that the program is working for students.
“The big message to parents is every student, no matter how successful or how challenged he or she might be, can gain significantly from an AVID experience,” he says.