“Thirty years from now, when I’m being interviewed for some magnificent achievement – ideally a great contribution to mankind…I’ll be sitting in this brightly lit room across from an interviewer, who will lean in very closely and ask with deliberation and pause: ‘Okay, but why you?’” Interlake senior Tibaria Alnouri said as she addressed fellow seniors and AVID students at the AVID Senior Breakfast. “AVID is my response to that question. It’s my origin story.”
It was a morning of celebration and honoring the accomplishments and journeys of the soon-to-be graduates. Many of them will be the first in their family to attend college.
“We must not be afraid to flirt with failure,” Sammamish senior Josephine Lee said during her address to the students.
It is an idea that dovetails with the lowercase dictionary definition of avid, which is lived out in AVID classes: to be characterized by enthusiasm and vigorous pursuit.
“All of us in this room, we’re fighting against the odds,” Alnouri said, leveling a determined gaze at her peers. “You’re winning.”
Advancement Via Individual Determination
AVID in Bellevue is an academic elective for students in grades 7-12 who want to learn strategies for success in middle school, high school, and in college. In Bellevue it is offered at the district’s comprehensive high schools, middle schools, and International, one of the district’s choice schools. This year some 686 students were enrolled in AVID districtwide.
“It’s a program for building college readiness schoolwide and through the lens of equity, increasing opportunities for students,” said Monica Davies, district AVID director and curriculum developer.
To enroll in AVID, students must apply and be interviewed. In the class, students gain college knowledge, and learn notetaking, study skills, and other strategies. They also learn the value of self-advocating and leadership, in addition to the opportunity to listen to guest speakers who share about their own educational journeys.
Setting goals is key to students’ success as well. They learn how to establish a goal, and then outline the ways in which they will accomplish it, including how much time it will take and what steps they need to take to complete the goal.
“I think AVID is one of the best classes,” said Sammamish senior and AVID student Eli Bennett. “This class I would say helped me get into college the most because of the way they taught us.”
The program is supported at each building by a site team, which generally includes a self-selected leader, counselor, ITCL, administrator, representation from all content areas and anyone else that may take part in sharing the work of AVID strategies.
Teachers attend a Summer Institute in San Diego to gain foundational knowledge before their first year of teaching AVID. There they learn tools and strategies that can be implemented in their class to best support students.
Content taught in AVID classes is geared to be culturally relevant to students. For instance, this year Sammamish students had a unit on social justice in which they followed current news stories related to social justice. Students completed readings, learned how to annotate, watched TED talks and practiced taking notes as if it were a college lecture.
This curriculum was developed by Ainsley Goodrich, who teaches an AVID class for juniors at Sammamish, in a way that she knew would be engaging. “I was sneaking in skills without them really knowing, and now they are able to apply the skills,” she said.
AVID provides teachers freedom to cater their class towards their students in a way that is engaging for them.
“There are things you have to cover, like college and WICOR – writing, inquiry, collaboration, organization and rigor. I think that as long as you are consistently hitting those things, and college and academics, you can have freedom,” she said.
One way Goodrich ties strategies and subject content together is through Socratic seminars. During this time, students are usually asked to read an article and think about three questions posed by the teacher. Then the students sit in two circles, one inside the other. The person on the inside turns and talks to their partner in the outside circle about one of the questions. Once the conversation is complete, the inside student turns around and is the spokesperson for the pair to share aloud with the group. Then they switch, which allows everyone to have a voice in the class.
“I like focusing on more of the whole student and supporting them through their whole school experience,” Goodrich said. “AVID just gives you a special place to learn more about each student and find out about what they are struggling with and what they can help others with.”
She sees community as the biggest benefit for students. “They will always talk about their AVID family,” said Goodrich. “They have a place here that they belong, that they can be vulnerable about not finding success sometimes, or that they can share about their successes that they do have.”
Growing a Culture of AVID
Since its introduction in the Bellevue School District in the early 2000’s, AVID has spread to 10 district schools.
Over the years, AVID has grown significantly, said Davies. Last year the program increased by 100 students, and this year by 75. Support from the Bellevue Schools Foundation has been instrumental to the program, assisting with implementation and curriculum in the early days of AVID and continuing to support training for teachers in the program.
A lot has changed in the 11 years that Davies has been involved.
“The beginning was just really focused on the AVID elective and getting that going,” said Davies. “Now there is more intentionality to move AVID strategies schoolwide. AVID is really a class to support leadership for students.”
At Highland, this year over 10 percent of the school took an AVID class, and Assistant Principal Liz Mizrahi said they anticipate that figure to be closer to 15 percent with four class sections offered in the fall. Additionally, over 80 percent of the staff is AVID trained.
“The impact of AVID is their (students’) success in their other classes, their college desire and determination, their leadership across the school,” Mizrahi said. “AVID is closing the opportunity gap.”
Davies said that providing additional leadership opportunities for students, unique curriculum offerings, and adding a sixth grade AVID class in the future are additional growth areas that are being considered.
In the fall, Bellevue High teacher and AVID site coordinator Terry Jess will lead a new AVID class pairing for freshman: AP World through AVID. The two-year sequence will include a semester of Foundations of World History and a semester of AVID the first year, with the year-long AP World class the second year.
This cohort style sequence will give students continuity and an immediate context in which to learn and apply the AVID strategies. Fifty-eight students signed up for the fall. Jess will teach two sections, rolling up with the students for their sophomore year, while another teacher would teach the new freshman group.
“I thought it would be a good idea to really infuse the AVID strategies with AP World,” Jess said. “It frees students up to get those college ready skills but then explore other electives; we don’t want to remove the AVID student from other (electives) they like.”
The goal, he explained, is to help students remove and overcome obstacles to their goals.
“I was an AVID kid,” Jess said. “I was the first in my family to graduate college. I understand that there are students that need that extra push, and if there is somebody that can see that and help them avoid those obstacles, that’s what I want to be.”
Learn more about AVID at www.avid.org.