AVID program supports low-income students’ quest for college

The desks in seventh-grade teacher Zachary Cummings’ AVID classroom at Hamilton Middle School are arranged so that students can work in groups. Collaboration is one of the five hallmarks of AVID, along with reading, writing, inquiry, and organization.

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Cummings’ students recently quizzed each other on Cornell notes they took on a PowerPoint presentation about the history of Apple Inc. Cornell notes are just one example of college-level study techniques students learn in AVID, a global nonprofit organization directed at students who are capable of completing a college-preparatory path if they receive the proper support. The focus is on low-income students whose families don’t traditionally attend college.

“AVID helps students who need it most by providing them with proven classroom strategies for success,” said HISD AVID District Director Derick Hutchinson. “The program encourages and supports the students’ journey to college.”

During their senior year, students get hands-on assistance with college and scholarship applications, as well as help passing college-entrance exams.

AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination, is not just a program, it’s a philosophy established by Mary Catherine Swanson in 1980. Swanson, a high school English teacher in San Diego, identified the following key elements to help all students succeed:

  • A non-traditional classroom setting meeting the academic and emotional needs of individual students
  • The teacher as advisor/counselor/student advocate
  • An emphasis on objective data
  • The student at the center of decision-making regarding educational goals
  • A student contract outlining willingness to work and setting learning goals
  • Student support from teachers and skilled, trained tutors
  • A curriculum emphasizing academic reading and writing
  • Reliance on the Socratic process

HISD schools that offer the program are Deady, Hamilton, Henry, Holland, Jackson, Ortiz, Revere, Stevenson, Thomas, West Briar, and Woodson middle schools, Houston Academy for International Studies, and Madison High School.

AVID is part of the Linked Learning approach, which was launched this school year in a cohort of eight high schools and their feeder pattern middle and elementary schools – a total of 40 campuses. The district will continue to implement the Linked Learning approach in additional cohorts over the next four years as part of a $30 million federal Race to the Top grant awarded to HISD in 2013.