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AVID program helps middle-of-the-road, minority students go to college

I had never heard of the AVID program before I started AmeriCorps this year.  Now that I serve in a school where more than half of students are on free or reduced lunch in a district near Seattle, I see how a program like AVID can work.  AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) takes middle-of-the-road students—first generation college students, students who do poorly in school, but have a willingness to work hard, students who are from poor or minority families—and put them on a path to attend college. 

AVID is an elective for students in elementary school through seniors in high school. It works because students want to take it (at least in theory). At most schools, students are interviewed to make sure that their college and academic interests match with those that AVID wants to foster. The AVID curriculum is based on the idea of the WICR—Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration and Reading—method. In class, students learn study skills, note-taking, organization, as well as critical thinking skills and how to ask questions in the form of tutorials, in which they bring in questions they are struggling with in their other classes.  Students take the skills they learn and apply them to other classes. 

Collaboration applies to the AVID leadership, as well. School districts enter intoagreements with the AVID Center, which sends them materials, membership and provides professional development.  The schools then appoint an AVID coordinator to make sure that all teachers of AVID are following AVID protocol.  Each AVID teacher will have a tutor to run tutorials, most often college students.  Many times, AVID tutors took AVID themselves in school and want to show their fellow AVID students that they can make it to college, too.

The AVID model has statistics that are almost indisputable.  AVID is present in 47 states, as well as in D.C. and has a presence in 16 countries or territories. Many different types of schools use AVID, from poor urban schools to richer suburban schools. Since 1990, more than 85,500 AVID students have graduated from high schools.  In 2010, 91.3% of AVID’s 22,210 seniors intended to attend a postsecondary school, with 58.3% attending four-year institutions and the other 33% enrolling in two-year schools. 

AVID’s ethnic breakdown is 49% of students labeled as Hispanic/Latino, 21% white and 20% black with the rest of the population being made up by other minority groups. Of these, in 2010, 88% of students applied at four year universities and 74% were accepted.  On Advanced Placement tests, Hispanic AVID students made up 53% of test takers, as opposed to 14% of Hispanic test takers in the national average.  The same goes for black AVID students, with 17% of test takers as opposed to 8% nationally.  Most telling, perhaps, is that 91% of AVID students completing college entrance successfully as opposed to a 36% national average.  

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