Saturday, July 17, 2010

AVID Challenges us to Address the Needs of Students in the Middle Quartliles

Yesterday, I posted about a program called AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) which has demonstrated remarkable success in improving the successful graduation to four year and two year colleges for students "in the middle." By in the middle, I mean students who are currently making grades of C to B+, often in lower level less challenging courses. The students that AVID addresses are students who have college potential, but are not realizing anywhere near their full potential. Several commenters pointed out that AVID entails additional expense, and worried that I was about to launch a campaign to raise the cost of education in St. Cloud. They pointed out that there is a budget crisis in Minnesota, and that trying to find new money for new programs would be pretty difficult to swallow.

I haven't been posting about AVID to think up a new way of spending more money. My primary motive has been to use the AVID success to challenge us to spend the money that we have better. Our school district has programs for students in the upper quartile (top 25%) that are second to none. The other day, I was invited to a coffee with some parents of 742 students, parents who are on the faculty at two of our local colleges. They pointed out that it is common knowledge amongst university people that the college bound District 742 students get a program that is far more rigorous, far more challenging that other districts in our region of Minnesota. That's because we have a robust, highly rigorous advanced placement program that has been developed by teachers in our two high schools over the last two decades. They said that they are bewildered by the fact that the local newspaper doesn't print a word about this, and that many citizens of our area are totally oblivious to our strengths in this area. Almost always, I hear from parents of top quartile students that they are thrilled by the range of opportunities and the rigorous challenge we provide to college bound students. Admissions officers all over the country, from local universities, to Minnesota privates, to the U of Minn, to the Ivies, the Big Ten, and nationally ranked privates, know that our top quartile students are ready to succeed in demanding college programs, because our students have a record of stellar preparation. A high grade point average for our students coming out of Apollo and Tech means something.

More often, I hear from parents that they would like us to pay more attention to students in the middle, and that's the reason that I've been talking about AVID. It reminds us many students who are performing in the middle quartiles in our high schools and others across the country actually are capable of significantly greater success. Many of them are children of parents who don't have college degrees. Some are students who encountered special barriers in elementary school--perhaps a reading disability known as dyslexia, that caused teachers, wrongly, to think that they are not smart. Perhaps they just haven't gotten the message that they can succeed, or perhaps they haven't realized that there is a pathway to college success for them. AVID proves to us that when junior and senior high school puts these students in a program designed to show them how to study, how to participate in a rigorous college preparatory class, how to take notes that huge gains in performance follows. I believe that we can use the ideas that have proven successful in AVID, and other ideas of our own, to make a difference for this untapped resource, underachieving students in the middle quartiles.

I first posted about AVID Back in May. I pointed out that AVID was demonstrating outstanding results in improving the success of students "in the middle" academically. I said:

I said: "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.

I see public education as a continuous progress enterprise. It is our job to adopt things that work, and pitch the things that don't.

As a community, when we see something that is working in other districts, we have to stop getting defensive, and we have to stop focusing on attacking each other around why it is that we aren't doing these things already. Continuous progress doesn't mean that we run out and try every new fad that comes along. There is only so much change that can be implemented at any one time. It doesn't mean that we just add a brand new program on top of everything else. But we can't blind ourselves to the things that are really working. Addressing the needs of the students in the middle quartile, especially those students who have greater potential, is just common sense.


  1. I am an AVID Coordinator and teacher in the Houston area. Been with it now 4 years. I believe it is the best program I have seen in education. If you have any questions about the practical application of the class or implementation at the district level, I'd be glad to help.

  2. Thanks. We had an AVID coordinator present to us this week. Its obviously a tremendous program. We have rich and deep array of advanced placement courses in our district. We've been working to broaden AP participation to first-generation students. The problem with AVID is the cost. How do you fund AVID in Houston?


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