MNPS Embraces AVID

AVID Prepares Students for College Early and Often
Posted on 12/12/2022
Five students standing in front of the AVID classroom

five students outside the AVID classroom

Ines Busane has another five semesters of high school to complete before she can go to college full-time. But she already has college on her radar – and not for the first time.

“I feel like as soon as I came to high school, it was automatically about college,” says Ines, a sophomore at Whites Creek High School. “Freshman year is very important, because that’s the year that sets the other three years up.”

One big reason for that mindset is AVID, an educational framework and program that promotes college and career readiness by helping students get the tools they need to succeed. MNPS is a big believer in the program, which is now in 48 of the district’s schools after a big expansion over the past six months.

AVID – short for Advancement Via Individual Determination – works to raise students’ expectations of themselves by establishing a college-going culture and helping students see what’s possible after high school, said Joe Kelly, MNPS’s districtwide AVID coordinator.

Kelly, who taught AVID in California for many years and also saw its schoolwide impact as a principal there, said the program shifts the key question for students from “Are you going to college?” to “Where are you going to college?” student in AVID debate class

“It’s a way of doing school that, if you do it with fidelity, has results,” he said. “You’re challenging students, but you’re supporting them. Everything worth having requires some hard work. It pushes students.”

Life Lessons

AVID runs on five principles known collectively as WICOR: Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading. It emphasizes the importance of a good GPA starting in students’ freshman year; helps students with study skills, note-taking, time management, essay writing and public speaking; and ensures that students know about college and scholarship opportunities and have what they need to keep up with and complete their applications. 

“We’re going to make sure we equip you with everything you need to be a productive and successful student,” said Sheree Cumberlander, who teaches the AVID II elective at Whites Creek.

On a recent Monday morning in a classroom full of college and university pennants and posters about the college admissions process, Cumberlander's sophomores worked on creating a debate argument that would combine “the three P’s”: persuasion, passion and purpose. They also played “Intellectual Ping Pong,” a fast-paced game that had pairs of students batting words back and forth in front of their classmates to see who could come up with the most words to fit a description – a way to get comfortable with and build confidence about public speaking.

Several students in the class said they had learned important life lessons from AVID along with the academic ones.

“To love yourself first,” said Sadie Scales.

“To stay strong on your beliefs, and don’t let anyone bring you down,” said Enrique Vega.

No Limits

And the lessons are starting earlier and earlier – in middle schools and even a few elementary schools. four AVID students in hallway

Onieka Hunt teaches AVID classes at Apollo Middle School that focus on academic success, social responsibility and teamwork. She said two of the biggest benefits of the AVID approach are focused note-taking and binders that help students organize information and “question what they do not understand and make deeper connections to materials they are covering in class."

College might be quite a way off, but Hunt said middle school students are ready to learn about it and talk about it. During a recent visit, her Apollo students peppered a college freshman with questions about the right work ethic, dealing with stress, staying organized and other topics.

“Preparing for college does not start in high school, preparing for college starts the very first day of a child’s academic career,” Hunt said. “I want my students to see firsthand all the opportunities after high school. I want them to understand the freedom higher education can offer and how what they are doing now affects their future.

“Our students have a positive response to talking and learning about different college opportunities. For them, it fosters a conversation about high school programs and classes they will need to take to prepare to apply to the college of their choice.”

Laura Vignon, dean of instruction and AVID coordinator at McGavock High School, said AVID “supports students where they are with the tools they need to be prepared for success.”

“It builds a positive community where students can feel free to make mistakes and grow from them,” said Vignon, who created a college admissions app with a former McGavock colleague after teaching AVID classes. “AVID shows students what being accountable and responsible for their own learning looks like and why it matters. The combined high-level instruction, postsecondary opportunities, and culture that it provides help remove barriers for students so that they can not only feel successful but achieve higher outcomes.”

Some of Whites Creek’s AVID students are also in the high school’s Early College program, a partnership with Nashville State Community College through which students can earn a two-year college degree while they get their high school diploma. At the same time, Cumberlander said, students have toured several of Tennessee’s public universities and will continue to do so.

And with AVID’s culture of expectations fueling them, they won’t be shy.

“I’m not limiting myself,” Ines says. “If I want to go there, I will apply.”

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AVID,College and Career Readiness,High Schools,Middle Schools