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Advancement Via What?

Updated on September 21, 2012

After fourteen years of teaching middle school English, I have stepped out of my comfort zone and entered the realms of high school. I am now teaching 12th grade Independent Study (an awesome class where seniors research something they're passionate about and work with a mentor in the community to create a project and a presentation revealing their process of study and's awesome) and 9th grade AVID - Advancement Via Individual Determination.

"AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a college readiness system for elementary through higher education that is designed to increase schoolwide learning and performance. The AVID College Readiness System (ACRS) accelerates student learning, uses research based methods of effective instruction, provides meaningful and motivational professional learning, and acts as a catalyst for systemic reform and change." (

Started in 1980 by Mary Catherine Swanson, a teacher in California, the program has grown from one school to hundreds of schools with thousands of students in many states and even other countries! The program has been proven to work, and the results are amazing. The philosophy of AVID is "Hold students accountable to the highest standards, provide academic and social support, and they will rise to the challenge."

So how does this program work, you ask? On the surface, I teach my students how to take notes (Cornell Note style), how to study those notes, how to ask higher-level questions and seek to learn HOW to do something and not just memorize something. I teach them organization through the binder system, and time management with planners, agendas, and assignment logs. I have tutors from local colleges who come every day to work with the students with the points of confusion they have in their classes. One of the biggest challenges of AVID is that the kids in the program have typically been B/C students in regular classes, but they have the potential to be A/B students in honors classes. Some of them are skipping whole year's worth of instruction! Having the tutors come in is very helpful.

I also take them on field trips...both cultural and educational. For instance, I'm planning a trip right now for them to visit the Meadows Museum at Southern Methodist University. The museum houses Spanish art from paintings to sculptures. It's an amazing museum, and the tours they take have focus and even workshops. Lately on "Fun Friday" we've been watching clips from the film Freedom Writers. Now the students are writing about their own lives, in a private journal or something that we can publish (their choice), as prose or poetry or rap or song (their choice), to enhance their writing skills and share what makes them...well...themselves. At the museum, they are going on a tour where they are looking at portraits by Spanish artists like Picasso, and at the end they do a workshop that teaches them how to paint a portrait. I want to incorporate this into their "exploring me" writing. The chances of us getting published and having a movie made of our lives is slim, but the outcome of their writing is encouraging and phenomenal.

Together, we came up with a rule system for class. Every time I say "Positive," it means that they aren't following the rules.

AVID at my school

Right now, my high school only has AVID in the 9th grade. The students in my class were in the program in 7th and 8th grade, and I inherited them. The other high schools in our district have the program also, and it has been very successful. In fact, about 93% of the students who go through AVID get accepted into 4-year universities upon graduation, as opposed to about 40% of students who weren't in AVID. I'm only in the 4th week of school, but so far, I am so excited about teaching this class and about the potential of my students. I want to live up to the purpose and mission statement of AVID:

AVID's mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society.


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