Wednesday, May 19, 2010

AVID program focuses on "Individual Determination"

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of parental support for education in realizing our vision of graduating all students to excellence. I argued that public education needs to have higher expectations for parents. A free public education is an important pillar of our society, but that we shouldn't be giving it away for free. By that I mean, we should be imposing non-negotiable expectations on all parents, guardians and their children. We will graduate you to excellence, but you have to agree to do your part.

I argued that no matter what the barriers, parents and guardians must be expected to make a contribution. In fact, it is the act of making sacrifices for your children's education that send the most powerful message: "my parents really care about this." My purpose in writing was not to beat up on that group of parents that are not meeting their responsibility. My purpose was to begin a discussion on what our school district can do to expect more from parents. There are a number of successful programs emerging across the country that begin with the recognition that "closing the achievement gap," or advancing the students "in the middle" begins with student and parent commitments to invest in education through hard work, regular attendance, and self-discipline.

Another program, and one I would like to mention, is AVID. AVID is a fourth- through twelfth-grade system to prepare students in the academic middle for four-year college eligibility. AVID claims "a proven track record in bringing out the best in students, and in closing the achievement gap". AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. The name puts the focus where the focus belongs. The idea behind AVID is that you advance in life through making an individual commitment to success. AVID targets students in the academic middle - B, C, and even D students - who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. The program explains:

These are students who are capable of completing rigorous curriculum but are falling short of their potential. Typically, they will be the first in their families to attend college, and many are from low-income or minority families. AVID pulls these students out of their unchallenging courses and puts them on the college track: acceleration instead of remediation.

"AVID is at work in nearly 4,500 schools in 45 states as well as the District of Columbia and 16 countries/territories. Large urban schools, tiny rural schools, resource-rich suburban schools, struggling schools - they all find that AVID meets the needs of their students in the middle." A number of Minnesota Districts have begun AVID programs.including Roseville, Hopkins, and Lakeville, for example.

Like KIPP (Knowledge is Power), AVID begins with the realization that good teachers cannot help children who are not determined to learn and families who fail to recognize that success requires persistent dedication to learning in the home. This concept permeates every successful program to advance students who are not realizing their potential. And it follows that we in public education must invest way more effort in engaging parents in students in a commitment to success.

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