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Dreaming Big in Pursuit of Student Success 

Advancement Via Individual Determination—what an American way of thinking! Our country has historically been the place for opportunities. It has been a place revered because individuals can dare to dream. It has been a place where individuals throughout our history have realized their dreams with creative ingenuity, hard work, determination and perseverance. That is exactly what one woman did when she dreamed of a better way to serve her students. In 1980 Mary Catherine Swanson created AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, which is more of a philosophy than a program. The philosophy is simple: hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social support and students will rise to the challenge to meet these standards of excellence. Similar to its Latin word of origin avidus, eager for knowledge, AVID schools strive to be a catalyst for accelerated learning.

AVID is currently in over 4,900 schools, including some in our region, and 28 postsecondary institutions across the nation. It is a college readiness system spanning elementary school through higher education. The AVID curriculum is based on the mission to prepare all students for high school and college readiness and ultimately success in a global society. The program essentials include rigorous course study in writing and reading curriculum, inquiry to promote critical reading and thinking, collaboration and research. In addition, students learn to use a systematic note-taking strategy and effective strategies in organization and study skills that can be applied across all academic disciplines. The AVID teacher implements specific researched based methods of effective instruction to instill in the students the skills necessary to be successful in high school, college and beyond. In addition, AVID schools seek to provide experiential field experiences and academic support through college-age mentors/tutors so students can be successful in a wide range of learning opportunities including advanced academic course work.


“Students have also verbalized that they feel more prepared for class now that they have a better understanding of how to use their notes to effectively study. ”


Carrie Templeton, AVID teacher at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, observed that students really “buy” into the AVID method. She stated, “We make assumptions about what they know, such as how to use a daily planner. I could literally see my student’s light bulbs go on when we discussed planning for the day and the week.” Students have also verbalized that they feel more prepared for class now that they have a better understanding of how to use their notes to effectively study. One direct outcome from this approach is increased student confidence with regard to academic work. Ms. Templeton remarked, “I see the students forming support groups for one another. One student just told me that before AVID he had never really known any of the students that are in the class with him. He says that now he has gotten to know these students and that they help one another in other classes.”

Because educators have been successful in the academic arena, they sometimes make assumptions about their students. For example, assumptions are easily made about students’ background knowledge in a given subject. Imagine what this generation of digitally literate students would think about an illustration of a pair of television antennae and the teacher referencing these antennae as “rabbit ears”. Teachers often assume that students have been taught how to take notes, prioritize their time and that they innately have the aptitude to develop an effective organizational system. This is frequently not the case. Students often do not even realize they are missing some of these prerequisite competencies. It is often the lack of knowledge in this “hidden curriculum” that results in a student’s inability to be successful in the more rigorous or advanced classes. AVID teachers strive to eradicate the assumptions by being very deliberate in planning enriching academic experiences, academic support and by helping students acquire a set of transferable skills.

There is a belief among educators that, in education, instructional methods cycle around from generation to generation but are simply renamed with new educational jargon or lingo. While there is some validity to the practice of renaming methods, educators have actually become more adept at utilizing the evidence from years of pedagogical practice and applying this research to define the most effective strategies. The Common Core State Standards were created on this foundation to ensure every student across our country can be successful in college and in a modern workforce. AVID is aligned to the Common Core in the areas of critical reading and writing and has been embracing these strategies for over thirty years. America is still the land of opportunity. It is a place where creativity is nurtured and valued. It is a place where young people today will learn to be global leaders, inventors, scientists, educators, writers and artists of tomorrow. AVID educators are dreaming big in pursuit of success for every student. Advancing via individual determination is the AVID way.

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