One way that’s proving successful at getting more high school seniors to go to college is to help them build confidence, grit and an ethic of organization and hard work.
So West Ada School District is joining five other Idaho districts in starting to help students at risk of not going to colleges learn those skills and more.
West Ada, whose 38,000 students make it the state’s largest school district, is putting Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) into Mountain View and Meridian high schools. It will expand to other schools over the next several years.
AVID is used in more than 6,000 schools across the country, reaching 1.5 million students in 16 countries or territories. It combines instruction in organizational skills and note-taking with a rigorous curriculum, leadership-building skills and scholarship hunting to help students get to post-secondary education. Students, for example, learn a note-taking system that allows them to review, put questions into notes or look at specific material. Students also carry a large three-ringed binder to keep everything organized in one place: assignments to turn in, tests and quizzes, and papers returned from teachers.
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“It’s hard to find someone who says something bad about this program,” said Don Nesbitt, West Ada School District assistant superintendent of teaching and learning.
I feel more comfortable knowing I want to go to college and what my future will be like.
Inga Nurati, Borah High AVID student
West Ada’s decision to adopt AVID will cost the district $77,000 in its first year. But the cost will drop dramatically after that.
AVID in West Ada grew out of discussions in 2016 about what the district could do better, said Mary Ann Ranells, district superintendent.
“One of the things that came up over and over from parents and staff (was to do) even more when it comes to the go-on rate,” she said.
Sixty five percent of West Ada’s seniors went on to college in 2015-16, well ahead of the state’s 46 percent rate. But the district’s parents and staff wanted to do better.
FIRST-GENERATION COLLEGE STUDENTS
AVID is aimed at students who are the first generation to attend college, with GPAs ranging from 2.0 to 3.3. About 1,000 West Ada high school students out of about 11,000 districtwide could benefit from the program, said Nesbitt.
Boise School District adopted AVID a dozen years ago and now reaches 1,282 students in all the junior highs and high schools.
In 2015, the go-on rate for AVID students in Boise School District was 75 percent, ahead of the district as a whole at 61 percent.
The reason we called AVID a family is because we all want the same thing: go to college.
Seth Blanton, 16, Board High sophomore
Improving Idaho’s college go-on rate is a key goal of Gov. Butch Otter’s Higher Education Task Force, which began in February looking at ways to improve college education in the state.
A study of Boise AVID students who went on to college from the program shows that the overwhelming majority have stayed in school. “There is very high retention,” said Stacey Roth, Boise district administrator of student programs.
Students enrolled in AVID have a clear sense of what they are doing in the program.
Inga Nurati, 16, a sophomore at Borah High School, is determined to go to Washington State University in Pullman to major in nursing. She knows getting there and staying there requires hard work, and AVID emphasizes getting her ready for that. It helps her know what she has to do and how to get it done.
“They want us to be challenged,” said Nurati, one of 150 AVID students at Borah. “I am supposed to challenge myself.”
AVID doesn’t give students an easy ride. Borah students take advanced-placement or dual-credit classes that earn them college credit. They meet daily, and among their tasks is to bring questions they have from their other classes that fellow AVID students help them answer. They spend time on sustained, “focused reading,” said Amy Everson, an AVID coordinator at Borah. Students need to be ready to read for long periods, a staple for college success.
THE AVID FAMILY
The students also get to hear regularly from former AVID students, who come back to talk about what it is like have gone on to college.
“They are kids from all backgrounds and all ages,” said Everson. “They want to be successful in college.”
Many AVID students in Nurati’s class have been together since they started the program in seventh grade. They’ve done the same things and worked on the same community projects, such as blood drives — a requirement in AVID.
They consider themselves an AVID family. “I think AVID overall has made me a better person,” said Henry Brollier, 16, a Borah sophomore.
“We’ve done more volunteering opportunities,” said Brollier. “I really like how it has made that possible for me, because otherwise I don’t think I’d be doing any of the things I am doing now.”
What’s happening at West Ada high schools
Meridian High School: All students will be affected by AVID. Two AVID classes will have a total of 60 students go through the AVID program. But all teachers will receive training in AVID’s approach to education, such as note-taking and organization, which they will be expected to use in their classrooms. Meridian High already has notified parents of potential candidates for the full AVID program.
Mountain View: Program starts with 60 students.
For more information, contact Mountain View and Meridian high schools