The Albemarle County School Board on Thursday heard from teachers and students in a program that inspires students in the “academic middle” to take advanced classes and apply to college.
AVID, or Advancement Via Individual Determination, is a college readiness course offered at thousands of American schools. It targets students who are underrepresented on college campuses, particularly first-generation college students.
“AVID is for many different kinds of kids who need just a little extra support to take more advanced classes,” said Maureen Jensen, AVID program director for the county school division.
Albemarle County introduced its first AVID elective class at Western Albemarle High School in 2006. This year, AVID classes enroll 436 students at all of the county’s comprehensive high schools and middle schools.
Ninety-three percent of Albemarle County’s AVID students have enrolled in a two- or four-year college, exceeding AVID’s national average of 71 percent.
“During the Great Recession … we kept AVID intact as a professional development commitment, even when we were making cuts in other areas,” said Superintendent Pam Moran. “That has been a great bang for the buck, in terms of our investment.”
Jensen said she was working with AVID teachers to recruit and retain more male students. By senior year, AVID classes tend to enroll far more girls than boys.
“That is a problem that we are working on,” said Jensen. “We want more teachers to be involved in AVID so male students have more opportunities to connect with adults.”
Albemarle County sends 30 to 40 teachers to AVID’s national training institute in Philadelphia each summer. Jensen said Albemarle’s AVID program would benefit from more division-sponsored professional development opportunities.
Josh Walton, principal of Walton Middle School, told the School Board that 17 percent of students at his school are enrolled in AVID. He said that Walton’s AVID students had recently taken tours of eight different colleges in Virginia.
“The students really bonded as a family on those trips,” Walton said.
School Board member Pam Moynihan asked if there were any ways that the school division could bring techniques being used in AVID to the rest of the student population.
Walton said many more students could benefit from learning how to take Cornell Notes, a centerpiece of AVID lessons.
Tyler Morris, an eighth-grader at Burley Middle School, told the School Board that his grades had improved dramatically since learning new note-taking and organization skills through Cornell Notes.
“[AVID] brought me even further than I thought it could,” Morris said.
Tinya Washington, a senior in Monticello High School’s AVID class, said she had been accepted to Old Dominion University and Virginia State University.
“AVID is important to me because … there is always someone who is there for me,” Washington said. “I am never alone, and I can count on anyone.”
William Trent, AVID coordinator for Monticello High School, said that all 58 seniors who were enrolled in Monticello’s AVID class between 2012 and 2016 were accepted to a four-year college.