Many students in the AVID program in several Tyler ISD schools say it has helped them earn better grades, as well as overcome problems, and it seems like a family. Educators are pleased with their progress.

AVID is an acronym for Advancement Via Individual Determination.

"AVID is just a big family and AVID basically helps you with your grades and getting into college," Ashlee Simmons, 13, an eighth-grader at Hubbard Middle School, said. "No matter what the problem is, everyone will be able to help you. It's helped me by getting my confidence up and helping me get all A's and B's."

It is a college or career readiness system that starts in elementary school and extends through high school and college.

A California educator, Mary Catherine Swanson, began AVID in 1980.

According to its website, AVID trains educators to use proven practices in order to prepare students for success in high school, college and a career, especially students traditionally underrepresented in higher education — students in the academic middle, students who are the first in their family to go to college.

AVID brings research-based strategies and curriculum to elementary, secondary and higher education. More than 700,000 students participate in AVID in 45 states and 16 other countries and territories.

"The purpose of AVID is to build student skills; our mission is to close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college readiness and success in a global society," said Lillian Brooks, director of AVID for Tyler ISD.

AVID was first implemented in Tyler ISD in 2005 at John Tyler High School, Ms. Brooks said, where the principal felt it "would be very good fit for his campus."

Other Tyler ISD campuses that later added the program include Jones, Ramey and Pete elementary schools; Boulter, Dogan, Hogg, Hubbard, Moore and Stewart middle schools and Robert E. Lee High School.

"I think it's working really well," said Candace Veatch, who teaches the program at Hubbard Middle School. "I've see tremendous growth in our numbers and also the interest in AVID. Student performance typically is higher. The eighth graders … it's like night and day from when they started."

AVID teaches students to use questioning and critical thinking skills, provides a family atmosphere and gives them an identity, Ms. Veatch said.

"It gives them something to look forward to and be a part of. In time they want to work harder because they realize the benefits of being prepared, knowing how to motivate themselves to perform better overall. It's exciting to see their growth."

Ramey Elementary School Principal Michelle Jarnagin said, "We are very excited about the progress our students have made through the use of the skills that they've learned in AVID.

"The students are able to organize themselves more efficiently, they are learning the strategies that they will need to be able to take notes and participate in classes at the college level. We're real excited about the way our students are setting their personal goals and achieving those goals, both academically and personally."

For Shayla Mosley, 14, an eighth-grader at Hubbard, "Avid is not only just a program," she said. "It's also a family who helps you when you get down, who encourages, who pushes you to the limit. When you try to give up, they are there to push and say you are not going to give up, keep going."

Shayla, whose long-term goal is to attend Georgetown University and become a lawyer, said she will be the first in her family to go to college.

AVID is helping her break the statistic that students like her do not go to college, she said.

Ember Nettles, 13, also said Avid is "kind of like a family" with participants helping each other with their studies or other problems and receiving tutorial time.

Fellow student Anthony Gutierrez, 13, said AVID has helped him get all A's and B's and he likes trips that the AVID class takes to college campuses.

Ladeja Kirkland, 13, of Hubbard, whose dream is to attend Texas A&M University, said she likes the field trips to different colleges too, the study groups and tutorial process.

"You study everything. You study math and reading and science. We have to take notes on every subject. I've made new friends in AVID and everyone there is like my second family," she said. "I love that we have this bond and that we all can help each other and work together as a team."

Tyler ISD's AVID director, Ms. Brooks, said Avid not only prepares students for college readiness, but also prepares them to be good citizens and sets the foundation skills they will need to be successful.

She said AVID students take Cornell-type notes, keep an organized binder, an agenda planner tool and hone in on those things all students need to be successful whether they are going to college or they are focused on a career.

"We teach students how to take effective notes. It is a college-based system that when used, they are very effective and rigorous," Ms. Brooks said, pointing out that Cornell notes are used in all areas, both core subjects and elective courses.

Students who apply to be in the elective AVID class at the secondary level are selected based on points awarded for their application, an oral essay, written interview, oral interview and whether they would be first generation college-goers.

In elementary schools in the AVID program, every fourth- and fifth-grader is an AVID student, every teacher is an AVID teacher and the AVID program is "embedded throughout the school day," Ms. Brooks said.

At Jones Elementary, the AVID program extends down to kindergarten as well as through fifth grade. "Even kindergarteners are learning how to question, learning how to work together and collaborate and how to organize," Ms. Brooks said.

Jones is the only elementary school that has AVID school wide and others are working toward that, she added.

Ms. Brooks said, "In elementary school, we are setting the foundation and hopefully once that foundation is set, then students are prepared for the rigor of middle school and high school and then go on to college and complete college if that's their goal."

In middle school, Ms. Brooks said, Avid consistently continues to focus on setting the foundation, the use of high level thinking skills, writing, collaboration, learning how to work together in groups on projects or other class assignments and organization.

"AVID is just best teaching practices. … AVID hones in on those foundational skills that every student needs to utilize in order to be successful in whatever they do," Ms. Brooks said. "AVID strengthens the student's self esteem and self worth in some cases in terms of what (the student) can really do and where (the student) can really be if (he) puts his mind to it."

Students have to want to be in AVID at the secondary level and once they get in, often they stay in.

In high school, the focus of AVID is still on writing, enquiry, collaboration, organization and reading.

However, writing becomes more of an emphasis to make student in ready and prepared for college. "You see more of a writing and reading curriculum there and community service," Ms. Brooks said.

Also in high school, AVID teachers help students with their applications for college and scholarships. "We look at what's a good fit for them for college and career. AVID is not just about college, it's about career as well," Ms. Brooks said.

While many students are considering college, others are looking at careers in air conditioning, welding or other fields.

Every AVID pupil in sixth-grade through 12th grade takes a college field trip every semester. There are trips to Tyler Junior College, The University of Texas at Tyler or Austin, University of North Texas, Baylor University and Texas A&M University.

Career exploration that begins in the middle school elective class continues on through high school.

One of the expectations of an AVID student at the secondary level is that the pupil will take at least one rigorous course every year.

College coaches, who are students from Tyler Junior College and The University of Texas at Tyler, as well as retirees, conduct tutorial sessions for AVID students at the middle school and high school levels at least twice a week.

"Tutorials are the crux of what we do supporting these kids," Ms. Brooks said. "But often times the students learn more from their peers than they do from someone else."

"AVID is really growing. It's taken everybody by storm because it works. We have data that supports us," she said.

"For seniors for the past six years, we've had 100 percent acceptance to multiple colleges and universities," Ms. Brooks said.

Many of the AVID students receive several scholarships and attend college at Baylor, The University of Texas at Austin and at Tyler, the University of North Texas, Tyler Junior College and out of state.

"It's giving them the vision that my life could be something more than where I came from and where I am right now," Ms. Brooks said. "We are shaping and molding students to be successful participants in our community and our society."


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