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John Monfredo: AVID—Making A Difference in Worcester’s Secondary Schools

Saturday, March 16, 2013


This month Worcester Public School students in grade six will be filling out course selection forms for their middle schools with their parents . One of the choices will be whether their child should enroll in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. The elementary schools will be advising parents about whether their child is a good candidate for AVID.

The school is looking for students who are in the middle and are in need of support to succeed in a rigorous curriculum. These students have a GPA between 2.0 and 3.5, have appropriate classroom behavior, good attendance, and the motivation and desire to prepare for entrance to a four-year college or university. As parents, should you want to inquire about the program, be sure to call and discuss the program with your principal.

Let’s look at other aspects of AVID and see if it’s right for your child. First of all, AVID is a philosophy, encompassing the idea that “effort creates ability” and that’s where the name comes from: individual determination.

The mission of AVID is “to ensure that all students, especially students in the middle will succeed in a rigorous curriculum and have a pathway to college.” AVID teaches the students strategies in writing, inquiry, literacy and has a framework of structures that will motivate, model, and assist those students in the middle who care to learn. Research shows that AVID has been very successful in meeting the needs of its students as indicated by looking at such measurements as Grade Point Averages, SAT scores, and college acceptance rates. What distinguishes AVID from other educational reform programs is its continuous success rate. Statistics across the nation are most encouraging. Of the 33,204 AVID seniors in 2012 who reported their demographics, academic achievement data and future plans, just over 98 percent indicated they would be graduating from high school, with 90 percent planning to attend a post-secondary institution: 58 percent to a four-year college and 32 percent to a two-year institution.

According to the information on AVID, some of the critical elements that help build the success of the program include:

  • Creation of a school culture of teamwork and raised expectations for middle range students
  • Introduction of a cost effective and successful tutoring model that works within the school day
  • The infrastructure of support from the AVID regional/district directors and the AVID Center
  • AVID continues to refine and improve teacher training
  • AVID constantly looks at their data and attempts to make improvement
  • There is on-going professional development throughout the year for those teachers in AVID.

The website on AVID listed some of the middle school research:

  • Each site utilized data to assess and improve teaching methods.
  • Increased creation of and enrollment in AP and honors courses occurred on nearly every campus.
  • AVID students represented 17-47% of AP enrollees
  • District support for AVID tutorials was a key factor.
  • Students improved in their own behavior as well as their expectations for other students in their cluster.


In addition, at most campuses, there has been an increase in the graduation rate and an improvement in student attendance.

These statistics mentioned can very well be the stats for Worcester. The Worcester Public Schools have a very effective AVID program guided by Lisa Dyer, manager of Staff Development, Sharon Leary, AVID District Liaison, and Janet Mathieu, AVID specialist. All three individuals speak highly of the program, the dedication of its teachers and student successes. The program is ten years old and has been instrumental in sending hundreds of our students to college. Just look that these statistics: 97.4 percent of the AVID seniors graduated in the class of 2012, 69.8 percent of the total AVID students scored a 3 or better on the Advanced Placement final exam (AP passing is 3-5 in scoring) as compared to 59.6 percent for non-AVID students, and over 94 percent of AVID students went on to college. Most impressive!

At the present time, 10 percent of secondary students are enrolled in the program. At the start of this school year there were 1,456 students in AVID and this program can be found in the all middle and high schools in the Worcester Public Schools. Come next year, there is a movement to bring in some of the grade six students in a few schools into the program.

Some of the highlights of this program are that all students have a college tutor work with them in their AVID class. The tutors are trained by AVID coordinators and most are working on work-study programs or are doing community service hours for college credit. The tutors go into the AVID classroom at least twice a week to assist Worcester Public School students.

The catch word in education these days is rigor. Everyone is looking for schools to engage their students in rigorous classes of study. In AVID, the students are enrolled in their school’s rigorous classes that include AP, honors and college preparatory classes as well as an AVID elective class that is taught by a trained AVID teacher.

In general, students are given the added attention and the skills to succeed in AP courses. Through AP’s college-level courses and exams, students can earn college credit, stand out in the admission process and learn from the core of trained, dedicated and inspiring teachers. At the present time there are 21 AP courses to choose from.

AVID teaches students organizational skills, time management, goal setting, focuses on higher order thinking skills and there is always help available for the students. The AVID program also has an AP boot camp on Saturday for those students in need of additional help. Students learn the organizational skill of note taking called the Cornell note taking method. After taking the notes, the student must revise and write questions and then write a brief summary in the bottom five to seven lines of the page. This helps to increase understanding of the topic. When studying for either a test or quiz, the student now has a concise but detailed and relevant record of previous classes. It’s these types of strategies that are taught to the students.

As with anything that we do in life, motivation plays a key role. Thus, the AVID students go on several field trips to area colleges and learn about college life and what they need to do to be accepted to college. College Fairs are held for AVID students and parents throughout the year and the program even has a contest as to what school will bring in the most parents to the college expo. Prizes are awarded to the winning school.

Many parents have stated that once their child leaves grade six there is very little parent involvement by the school. Not the case with AVID, for the parents have to sign a contract with the school as part of the AVID experience. A daily journal goes home from the teacher and the parent and teacher sign off on what is happening at school. In addition, there are AVID family awareness nights where parents have an opportunity to learn more about the program and how they can assist their child at home.

Students in the Middle School are encouraged to ask their teacher for extra help, set high goals for themselves, finish homework each day, have reading a priority each evening and work on being the best that you can be.

At the AVID office at 20 Irving Street there was a poster entitled, “Quest for Success” College Expo. There was a date for the students, one for the teachers and a family day event. Parents attending the event were also eligible for door prizes. Topics at the college expo included voices of successful college students and what it took for them to make it, benefits of AP courses, traveling through the college application process, and a great deal more.

In addition, teachers go through extensive training and are involved in a summer workshop and a series of staff development training throughout the year. Teachers have access to updated best practices in teaching and on-line internet support. The teachers also receive a newsletter called the AVID Weekly that is a curriculum tool to assist teaching critical reading skills.

The AVID program is funded by the Worcester Public Schools but the extra activities—college trips, teacher professional development, college banners and various supplies—are funded by the Hanover Insurance Foundation. The Foundation has been a major supporter of AVID since its inception ten years ago.

This is without a doubt a most impressive program that has the research to show that it works. Until now it was perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the Worcester Public Schools. Not any more! For more information, visit the AVID website.  


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