Successful AVID program expands at Westwood High
The program is designed to help students in the academic middle get into college by teaching them study skills that boost their grades. The skills they learn also help them to be successful in college.
“AVID focuses on the middle students who are often forgotten. We have the GATE program and the AP program to promote students on the upper end. We have special education programs for students on the lower end but often times those in the middle are forgotten,” explained Sheri Binswanger, the AVID instructor at Westwood High.
This year a class for juniors and seniors was added as an elective, called AVID seminar. Westwood High has had an AVID class for freshmen and sophomores for three years.
“In AVID seminar we hit hard on the skills you will need for college,” said Binswanger.
The curriculum for AVID seminar was designed by an English professor at California State University, San Diego who noticed many incoming freshmen were very weak in skills for writing research papers. Therefore students enrolled in the class write one term paper each semester.
The first semester it is a group effort and the paper must focus on a great leader who was a catalyst for change. Binswanger said the students in AVID seminar are writing their group research paper on Caesar Chavez.
In addition to writing research papers students are learning test-taking strategies, how to complete college applications and write college entrance essays.
To better serve the junior and senior AVID students, Westwood High has implemented a fall college tour this year. Each spring students in the freshman and sophomore AVID class participate with other schools in Region 2 visiting several California colleges and universities. However the spring tour is too late in the year for high school seniors who must submit college applications in November. Therefore, Binswanger has arranged a College Road Trip for the juniors and seniors. They will tour California State University, Humbolt, CSU Sonoma, Mills College and Saint Mary’s College in early November.
The freshmen and sophomore students will go on the Region 2 five-day college tour this spring to visit the campuses of the University of California Irvine, UC San Diego and CSU San Diego. Binswanger said Ryan Lee, a graduate of Westwood High, is attending UC San Diego and will act as tour guide at UCSD.
“It is always beneficial for students to see another student from Westwood in college somewhere,” said Binswanger.
Students who enroll in AVID are taught such skills as note taking, inquiry and writing, as well as reading and test-taking strategies to help them excel.
Binswanger said it is amazing how learning to take notes, have an organized binder, ask questions in the classroom and take part in discussion impacts grades. Students who have been enrolled in AVID a few years are no longer C students but A students.
While AVID is an elective at Westwood High other instructors have incorporated the concepts taught into their classrooms.
“AVID is now more institutionalized. It has become a part of our culture instead of some weird thing Mrs. B is doing in her classroom,” said Binswanger.
The program is so successful Lisa Kalsbek, Region 2 director, brought the director for the state of California, Granger Ward, for a site visit in early October. Region 2 includes schools from the Oregon border to Willows and from Hayfork and Weaverville to the Nevada border.
“We have made AVID work in a rural setting. He was interested to see how AVID works in a small school,” said Binswanger.
She said the elective has always had scheduling problems, conflicting with other popular electives. For the first year the ninth and 10th-grade AVID class does not conflict with band but the AVID seminar class does. Students in small schools are forced to make choices, said Binswanger.
AVID was developed in 1980 by Mary Catherine Swanson, an instructor at Clairemont High School in San Diego. In 1992 a nonprofit organization called AVID Center was formed to help promote the program outside the San Diego Unified School District. It is a fifth through 12th-grade curriculum to prepare students in the academic middle for four-year college eligibility.
Currently, AVID is used in schools in 39 states, the District of Columbia and in 15 countries. In California 61 percent of AVID students enroll in CSU colleges versus 10 percent of the overall high school student population. The statistics for UC campuses are 24 percent for AVID students and 7.5 percent for students overall.
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