AVID: College Readiness and Career Prep for High School Students
By Edward A. Mainzer
Advancement via Individual Determination (AVID) is a program founded in California in 1980 by high school English teacher Mary Catherine Swanson who was concerned that her students—particularly those from minority and low-income backgrounds who could be the first generation to attend college– were not successfully transitioning to higher education. Today, AVID is a nationally recognized program for identifying students as young as elementary school and providing them with the skills to succeed in high school and transition to competitive four-year college programs. Although they may be “in the middle” academically, these students are seen by their teachers as having what it takes to succeed with their school’s most academically rigorous work.
AVID Program in the Schools
By 2010 AVID was serving over 400,000 students in some 4,500 schools in 45 U.S. states and 15 countries, but AVID has historically been seen as a college-prep program. Indeed, their 2010 30th anniversary slogan was “Decades of College Dreams.” However, there is an increasing realization that AVID’s focus on the skills required for success with rigorous academic work means that it is also about preparing students for successful careers. Indeed, writing in the Fall 2010 issue of ACCESS, AVID’s Educational Journal AVID’s Executive Vice President, Rob Gira identified “college and career readiness” as “two concepts that should be more closely linked.”
At the school level AVID is centered around a daily advisory class for all AVID students, led by a teacher who has attended AVID professional development trainings and is part of a school AVID site-team. AVID seeks students and their families who voluntarily commit to the extra work required and agree to a rigorous course of study, including taking Honors and Advanced Placement (AP) courses where available. The core skills AVID emphasizes are:
The last component is realized in part through twice-weekly tutorials with trained volunteer tutors who are a critical part of the AVID methodology.
AVID’s Impact in Underrepresented Communities
AVID’s impact is demonstrated by the success of its graduates at both the high school and college levels, particularly when their numbers are disaggregated for underrepresented populations such as African-Americans and Hispanics. AVID research reports that more than one-third more AVID students go on to college than local or national averages, and that the impact of AVID is particularly noteworthy for young people of color. AVID data also shows that the longer a student participates in AVID the greater is the program’s impact. And when in college, the data indicates that AVID students have greater staying power than similar non-AVID peers. “In short, the capital that students bring with them into the program does not seem to be as important as the capital that the students accrue while they are in the program.” (“Research,” Retrieved from http://www.avid.org/res_research.html)
Increasing Minority Representation in STEM fields: Impact of AVID Program
AVID incorporates both knowledge and skills that are critical to career success, and its mission to serve underrepresented populations is one that dovetails with national initiatives designed to increase minority representation in critical careers such as Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields which have been the focus of efforts by groups such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science, National Science Foundation, National Governors Association and U.S. Department of Labor.
Many of the core AVID principles, developed to assist students succeed with rigorous academic studies, are also applicable to success in competitive career tracks. These include helping learners develop successful organizational skills and study habits, practicing effective questioning as active learners, and the ability to collaborate with others and synthesize information. As AVID Executive Director Jim Nelson has written, “the skills needed for college prep might be better described as ‘success prep’—necessary for anyone who wants a stable, fulfilling career.”
AVID Central in San Diego, California, maintains tight control over the use of its curriculum materials to assure consistent quality among practitioners and services to students. Only schools that have fully committed to the program may send staff to the required (summer) trainings necessary to begin implementation. AVID also performs regular site-visits and engages in on-going data collection to assess program effectiveness. One distinguishing feature of the AVID model is its requirement that multiple members of the school community, including teachers and counselors—and not just building or district administration—“buy in” and become trained before it may be implemented.
AVID is about assuring that as many young people achieve as much of their potential as possible. As AVID has developed over the last three decades it has become increasingly clear that this mission ultimately means supporting students’ transition not only into and through high school and college, but also into the world of work.
AVID Research, retrieved from http://www.avid.org/res_research.html November 26, 2010.
Gira, R. (2010). “Book Review: College and Career Ready—Helping All Students Succeed Beyond High School.”ACCESS AVID’s Educational Journal, 16(3), 15-16.
Nelson, J. (2007). “AVIDly Seeking Success.” Educational Leadership, 64(7), 72-74.
Edward A. Mainzer, EdD, LMHC, has served as a teacher, administrator, adjunct professor and school, college and mental health counselor for over 30 years. He is currently a school and college counselor in the NYC public schools. He has also served as an AVID Preparing for College trainer and AVID National Conference speaker. Contact Edward at firstname.lastname@example.org