As an urban school district, we are always looking at programs and initiatives that provide an even playing field for all of our students, regardless of their backgrounds. One program that does just that is the AVID program. It is a program that requires student buy in, parental support and professional development for teachers.
AVID stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination and was founded by Mary Catherine Swenson. Swenson believed that “she could teach them(students)the skills needed to successfully complete the rigorous courses that would prepare them for four-year universities. She required students to take ownership of their own learning and futures”.
Worcester began offering AVID at the middle school level over 10 years ago and initial focuses were on students who were at risk of falling through the cracks, so to speak. It allowed them to have additional experience with focus on proper study skills, higher education and career information exposure etc. I had the opportunity to develop a partnership between Nichols College Football students and students at Forest Grove in 2006. This partnership involved a field trip for the students from Forest Grove out to the Nichols College campus where they got to tour the campus, interact with the college students and have a meal in the campus dining hall. The Nichols Students also made trips to Forest Grove to speak to the classes about their backgrounds and what attending a 4 year program meant to them. It was impressive to see the components of the program in action.
Fast forward to today and AVID has continued to grow throughout the district. According to Sharon Leary, AVID District Liason for WPS, we now offer AVID at 16 schools throughout the district and we have expanded to the elementary and high school levels. “The curriculum is all about WICOR”, Leary said. WICOR stands for:
1. Writing to learn
2. Inquiry and high level questioning
3. Collaboration in teaching and learning
4. Organization: binders, agenda usage, Cornell Note-Taking
5. Reading: Critical Reading to learn
At Worcester Technical High School, students are participating in a service learning project throughout the school, “we are making goal/vision boards, we are using naviance as a source to create the college platform in the classroom”, said Liz Ward, AVID Coordinator at Worcester Tech. She went on to explain that Naviance is a college and career readiness solution that helps districts and schools align student strengths and interests to postsecondary goals, improving student outcomes and connecting learning to life that they are able to tie right in with the AVID program.
“AVID is a class that offers exposure and brings awareness to those who never thought college was an option. It gets you on track to be the best student you can be and gives you the tools to ensure a successful high school experience. I believe that all of students in all of the schools should have this program……potential is universal but opportunity is not and the students who don’t get this class (who fit the criteria) are much less likely to go on to a 4 year school” said Ward.
These skills certainly help to give students a leg up and and enhance their overall educational experience. It is a program that would certainly benefit all students and will hopefully expand to all of our schools as we are able to continue to offer it in the district.