ADVANCEMENT VIA INDIVIDUAL DETERMINATION (AVID) students Gilly Red, Marcela Tayaba, Andrea Pliego, Sienna Smith and Ricardo Barajas, left to right, work on a math equation at Herbert Green School in Placerville. Democrat photo by Pat Dollins


AVID students are building the dream

By From page B2 | March 04, 2013

“You got this, dude,” said Gilly Red as fellow eighth grader Adalberto Santana talked his way through the steps of an algebra problem that had been stumping him.

While students in his tutorial group asked questions designed to help Adalberto define the problem, other Herbert Green AVID students were grouped in tutorials exploring math, English or history questions.

Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) is an elective program at the elementary, middle-school and high school level designed to close the achievement gap and give students who might not otherwise go to college, the skills, organization and support to be successful in a four-year college.

Twice weekly tutorials are only part of the program. Other facets are study skills, organization, Cornell note-taking, guest speakers, field trips to colleges, critical thinking, enrichment and motivational activities.

“The philosophy is if you hold students accountable to the highest standards and provide the academic and social support, they will rise to the challenge,” said Mike Ziegler, AVID coordinator at Union Mine High School.

Union Mine has participated in AVID for the past seven years and has graduated three classes of students who have participated in AVID all four of their high school years.


Successful program

“Ninety-eight percent of the graduates meet the A-G university requirements and 92 percent have been accepted and gone to four-year colleges,” said Ziegler. “That’s a pretty successful program.”

Herbert Green Middle School joined other local middle schools with their participation in AVID this year. Susan Atkinson is the teacher, with volunteer Diane Ungles providing support for the year-long elective class.

“We interviewed each student who applied at the end of seventh grade,” said Atkinson. “They needed to have a 2.0 grade point average, certain test scores, good attendance and be considered under-served.”

AVID isn’t a remedial class and it’s not for behavior problems. It’s for those kids right in the middle, not getting extra attention because they may not qualify for gifted programs and don’t need remedial instruction. Most are from families where college has not been a family tradition.


It’s the technique

“We teach organization techniques to help them be successful, weekly grade checks to keep them on track, and do goal setting and team building,” said Atkinson. “They have to really want to be in the program.”

Developed in the 1980s by Mary Katherine Swanson, head of the English department at Clariemont High School in San Diego, AVID’s goal is to level the playing field for minority, rural, low income and other students without a college-going tradition in their families — focusing on the least served students in the academic middle.

“It started with one high school and 32 students,” said Ziegler, “and now it’s in 4,900 high schools and post-secondary institutions and serves 700,000 students. It targets B, C and D students who want to go to college with acceleration instead of remediation.”

In one of the Herbert Green AVID tutorial groups, Andrea Pliego said she applied for the class because she wanted help with her eighth grade classes.

“I want to go to UC Davis and major in medicine. This class has really helped me with math and in meeting people,” ANdrea said.

Sienna Smith, eighth grader, also plans to go to the University of California, Davis and go into nursing or veterinary work.

“The organization we’ve learned has helped a lot — I don’t lose as much stuff,” Sienna said.


Commitment for everyone

Not only do the students have to commit to the program, teachers and administrators do as well.

Both Atkinson and Herbert Green’s principal Jason Harm attended the AVID Summer Institute for training and Atkinson takes additional training every other month at the Sacramento County Office of Education.

“The administrator has to know how the support and strategies to help kids reach their potential work so they can make the financial and time commitment,” said Harm. “Ideally what we do in AVID goes out to our whole school. AVID graduates have a 95 percent completion rate at four-year colleges. That’s astronomical.”

Becca Kaldunski, head of AVID at El Dorado High School said one of their goals is to seek out ways to educate and expose teachers to AVID’s research-based practices and get them implemented school-wide.

El Dorado has been offering AVID since 2003 and currently has 119 students in the program.

According to Harm, AVID creates a smaller family within the larger family at middle school, one in which peers care about each other and help to keep each other accountable — often not the usual middle school experience.

“It’s also about helping them begin to build the dream of going to college and being successful,” harm said.

While AVID is an eighth grade only class at Herbert Green, at Union Mine and El Dorado high schools, students attend AVID all four years, becoming a tight-knit support for each other.

As in the middle schools, AVID students visit two colleges each year. They get practice taking the ACT and SAT exams and get help with college applications and in finding financial support for college.

“We roll out the red carpet for college,” said Ziegler. “If they want to walk it, we can get them there.”

This year, Ziegler said Union Mine had 80 applicants for 34 AVID spots. Ninety-eight percent of Herbert Green’s AVID group has already applied.


Volunteers needed

So far, the only problem Atkinson has had with her class of 30 enthusiastic learners is finding volunteers to help with the program.

“At the high school level, they can use seniors to help freshmen, but it can be hard to find someone who can come in for 45 minutes in the middle of the day. It was a lot of work to get the students to the point where they can help guide someone to the answer instead of just giving it to them,” Atkinson said.

During the tutorial, one AVID student pointed out a missed step in a math equation and there is a soft chorus of  “oh yeah,” from three other students. Asking leading questions, doing critical thinking, putting it all together and planning for college — AVID is working at Herbert Green.

For more information about AVID visit the Website at

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530-344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @WSchultzMtDemo.




Wendy Schultz

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