By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
The Gainesville ISD has a new program, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), which was introduced this past year by Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Brasher to provide a more equal footing for students that might not have thought that higher education was a possibility due to low esteem, poor academic skills or lack of financial resources to attend college. The program has been so successful at Gainesville High School (GHS) that it will expand to the Gainesville middle school this next school year where it is designed to provide an even earlier start for students who need guidance and support in preparation for a college education.
Although AVID serves all students, it primarily focuses on students that are lacking a support system or learning strengths. The plan’s premise is that if expectations of students are raised and with the right support system in place, students may meet challenges head on as they now see possibilities that were once hidden.
This college readiness program began in 1980 on the heels of a court imposed desegregation in San Diego Ca. where a large number of inner city students were bussed to suburban schools. Claremont High School English department head Mary Catherine Swanson applauded desegregation but recognized the need to help those that might not have the structured support to pursue a higher educational program such as college. She developed the AVID as an academic elective and a philosophy to hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social support and to encourage participating students to rise to the challenge with a primary goal to increase learning and performance.
GHS principal David Glancy said that the program highly motivates students by giving them confidence needed to pursue the dream of a higher education. Those who may have thought a job or trade was their only future after high school now see that there may be other vistas on the horizon.
“It is important for the community to know that we want to provide an opportunity for all of our students and it has been proven that the AVID program will non only assist them in obtaining a college education but will give them skills that will benefit them throughout their lives,” Glancy said.
“Some students need specialized assistance,” Glancy continued. “AVID teaches them how to be successful through a series of steps including organizational skills, how to take notes correctly, developing the learning process with critical thinking skills and specialized tutoring by teachers with a heavy emphasis on reading and writing.”
Glancy said that with the volume of great colleges in the North Texas area, field trips to these institutions of higher learning are an important visual part of the AVID plan.
“When these kids actually see the campuses, they can visualize themselves there which increases their confidence and desire to make college a reality,” he said. “We normally take them on these field trips on Fridays where they can get a first hand experience for life after GHS. We have University of North Texas talent searchers similar to athletic scouts that are highly involved with the progress of our students.”
Although the AVID program began with one high school and 32 students, it is now found on more than 3,800 elementary and secondary schools in 48 states and presently serves over 425,000 students. Many educators see a great difference and an astounding success rate.
The national AVID website states that since 2005, nearly 125,000 AVID students have graduated from high school and planned to attend college. Of the 27,891 AVID graduates in 2011, 91 percent plan to attend a higher institution.
During the AVID course, students attend tutorials twice a week and work together to solve problems, access their learning logs daily, learn organizational skills by maintaining a binder complete with notes and materials from other classes and learn learning critical thinking skills by engaging in activities twice a week such as writing assignments, seminars, group problem solving and class projects including goal setting and plans of action.
With AVID expansion to the Gainesville middle schools this next school year, Glancy thinks the program will have even a bigger impact by introducing younger students to the life long learning skills needed for success.
He continued, “AVID is now an integral strategy for the GISD and other school districts across the country as it helps to close the achievement gap and makes college dreams accessible for all students.”
For more information call Ted Bealle at Gainesville Middle School or Glancy at GHS.