The Education Innovator #29
Volume III
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The Education Innovator
 August 8, 2005 • Number 29
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What's inside...
Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID)
What's New
Secretary Spellings addresses American Legislative Exchange Council; Youth Indicators 2005 released; NCES updates "Build a Table;"; Comenius program targets hard-to-reach student populations; Center for Strategic & International Studies launches free website with resources for teachers; SEED charter school receives Innovations in American Government Award; Dunn Solutions Group to create online system to manage Chicago's supplemental educational services; and ThereNow holographic technology offers virtual teachers.
Innovations in the News
North Carolina plans to open four international studies schools; plus information about reading, teacher quality, and technology.

Students in the Middle Demonstrate Avidus and Reach New Academic Heights
The scene is Escondido, California: fade-in to a picture of Mario, the son of an immigrant family. In the beginning, Mario's father provided for the family by picking avocadoes. Now he owns his own business, and the boy who observed his father's determination to succeed is experiencing success of his own, attending classes at the University of California. Shift the scene 31 miles south to San Diego. Focus on Rosa, who came to this country as a child and struggled to learn English. Now she tutors middle school students and is studying to become a bilingual education teacher. Move the scene east to Texas; find Gerald, soft-spoken, but deliberate. Gerald's mantra reads like a mathematical equation: "Education equals freedom, power, and opportunity." The second member of his family to graduate from high school and the first to attend college, Gerald's goal is to become a doctor after his work at Texas State University.

Although these students' success stories may sound like something out of a Hollywood movie, their experiences are real. What ties the students together is a strong sense of perseverance, overcoming barriers of language and socioeconomic status to achieve their goals, through participation in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program at their schools.

AVID is a support system and tutorial model for students in the fifth through twelfth grades, based on the philosophy that "effort creates ability." This philosophy is informed by the belief that all students, no matter their zip code or skin color, can achieve at the highest levels if teachers give them access to rigorous courses and intensive support. As demonstrated by Mario, Rosa, and Gerald, AVID students must have a desire and determination to advance both in school and in life. To participate in AVID, students must be part of an underserved population, meaning that they live in a low-income household, will be the first in their family to receive a higher education, or belong to a minority group. Guidance counselors, teachers, and administrators can recommend that students participate in the program. After students agree to enroll, they are interviewed to determine if they have the desire to do the hard work that AVID requires.

AVID targets the vast majority of students who traditionally receive the least attention—not the students who are either struggling or who are academically gifted—but the students in the middle of the performance spectrum, those "average achievers" who earn "B," "C," and even "D" grades in ordinary classes. These students have the potential to attend college, but often fall short of meeting college acceptance requirements. AVID accelerates the education of these average students, taking them out of the classes that are not challenging them and, instead, placing them in Advanced Placement, honors-level, and other rigorous classes, with added support from trained AVID teachers. Like the Latin root avidus, from which the program derives its name, students who volunteer to participate must be "eager for knowledge."

In the fall, AVID will be active in more than 2,000 middle and high schools in 36 states, Canada, and 15 countries that are involved in the Department of Defense Dependent Schools program. A mission to increase learning and performance in participating schools drives AVID's work. Schools that choose to implement the program commit to creating a "site team" that supports teachers and students, instituting the AVID curriculum and its special elective course, and providing professional development for staff.

At each school, the AVID site team consists of AVID elective teachers, AVID coordinators (who are the AVID point-people for the entire school and teach AVID elective classes), school site administrators, college preparatory teachers (who teach classes such as Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate), a counseling staff member, students, and parents. Site teams schedule AVID elective classes during the school day, monitor program results by collecting and analyzing student achievement data, work toward opening access to rigorous courses, and ensure the institutionalization of AVID as a school-wide system.

Secondary school teachers and college professors developed the AVID curriculum, which centers on the WIC-R method (Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, and Reading). The WIC-R method aims to provide students with the skills they need to be successful in college preparatory classes. Writing is emphasized so that students can use their own thoughts to develop a deeper understanding of texts and to communicate and clarify their opinions on paper. AVID encourages inquirybased learning experiences, driven by the students, rather than lessons driven by teachers' lectures. Activities such as "Cornell note taking" and tutorial groups are structured around a Socratic-style approach where students, through a question and answer process, are encouraged to clarify, analyze, and synthesize material. Students are taught how to become responsible for their own learning based on collaboration with their teachers. Critical reading is the last component of the WIC-R method, where students learn how to question and critique literature. AVID teachers believe that these instructional techniques transform those who enter as average students at the beginning of the school year into active contributors who enthusiastically participate in classroom discussions and projects.

The WIC-R method is used in the Advanced Placement, honors-level, and other rigorous classes into which AVID students are placed, as well as core classes across the school, so that the instructional strategies can support students school wide. An AVID elective course also utilizes the WIC-R method, where for one period each day students learn organizational and study skills and develop their critical thinking abilities. Using specialized AVID instructional materials such as The Student Success Path and The College Path, teachers engage students in activities designed to improve their study habits, time management, organization, and awareness of the college acceptance process. The College Path includes a sequential approach to developing college preparatory and decision-making skills, which helps students set academic goals and design a plan to reach them. The book also introduces students and their families to the financial aid process, how to choose a major, and exams such as the ACT, PSAT, and SAT. During the elective, students also receive academic help from AVID teachers and college tutors. These tutors are often former AVID middle and high school students, who embody the path of success for the students they mentor. Tutors are trained in the WIC-R method during a 16-hour series of professional development sessions for AVID teachers, usually during the summer.

Teachers engage in ongoing professional development, learning new techniques to bring out the best in their students. Each month teachers join regional and district directors for AVID workshops. The AVID Center, based in San Diego, provides one and two-day workshops for content teachers in English, mathematics, science, history, social science, and English language development. The AVID Center also offers district leadership training with on-site visits and facilitation to ensure that regional and district directors are building local capacity for implementing, sustaining, and improving AVID programs in their areas. Finally, the annual Summer Institute provides a forum for all AVID teachers and administrators to learn and reflect. This summer, 11,000 AVID teachers and administrators are being trained across five institutes in Texas, Georgia, and California. Teachers and administrators throughout schools using AVID attend these sessions, so that even students who do not directly participate in AVID can benefit from its instructional methods. Institute participants can attend workshops such as "The Socratic Seminar," "Leadership for Expanding a School-Wide College-Going Culture," and "Tutorology." They also hear about best practices from AVID "demonstration sites." The largest AVID summer gathering occurred last week in San Diego for the International Institute, where nearly 4,000 teachers came together to learn, share, and celebrate the 25th anniversary of the AVID program.

Mary Catherine Swanson, a former classroom teacher, founded AVID in 1980 while working in San Diego's Clairemont High School. After a federal order to desegregate the city's schools, Ms. Swanson committed herself to ensuring that the inner city students who arrived at Clairemont would succeed. Ms. Swanson believed that if these underserved students were held to high standards and provided with support, they could rise above low test scores and academic mediocrity.

This year, Ms. Swanson was one of 12 recipients of Cable's Leaders in Learning Awards, which recognizes the most inventive classroom educators, administrators, community leaders, and policy makers who are transforming the nation's educational system. On August 4, she announced her retirement after working nearly 40 years as a public school educator. San Diego County schools' Superintendent Rudy Castruita said, "I think in AVID, what she has created is the most successful program in the county if not the country in getting underrepresented students into college." Since the program's inception, more than 40,000 AVID students have graduated from four-year colleges and universities, which constitutes 95 percent of all AVID participants.

In 2004, Mario, Rosa, and Gerald shared a unique distinction; they were among the first AVID students honored as Dell Scholars by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Students selected for the award receive $20,000 in scholarships to complete a bachelor's degree program of their choice. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must earn a minimum grade point average of 2.4, demonstrate financial need, plan to enroll in college, and, most notably, they must have participated in an AVID program for a minimum of two years in middle or high school. The Dell Scholars Program began in 2004 as an extension of the Dell family foundation's efforts to improve outcomes for underserved children. The foundation funds programs for students that are designed "to improve basic reading, math, and science knowledge levels, as well as college readiness skills and programs that guide parents and students through the college application process" – all criteria that are captured in the AVID program. This year, the program recognized 160 AVID students nationwide.

The AVID program in California received an Advanced Placement Incentive program grant in 2003 from the Office of Innovation and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education.

Resources: Note: The featured program is innovative and has a history of results; however, it does not have evidence of effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation.


What's New
From the U.S. Department of Education

In a speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council's annual meeting, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said, "More than three-quarters of Americans believe that, if our high schools don't change in the next 25 years, our country will be less able to compete in the global marketplace." She pointed out that governors and state legislators remain the driving forces behind reform, and noted positive aspects of No Child Left Behind, including the fact that 250,000 students took advantage of free tutoring or school choice last year and that 1,000 students benefited from opportunity scholarships in the District of Columbia. (Aug. 4)

Youth Indicators 2005, from the National Center for Education Statistics, shows that America's young people have made substantial improvements academically over the last three decades; they have nearly doubled their college completion rates and have improved their mathematics performance. The indicators also show, however, that substantial gaps remain between white and minority students. (July 29)

The National Center for Education Statistics has updated its "Build a Table with Public Elementary/Secondary Data" online tool. This tool gives users access to Common Core of Data (CCD) elementary and secondary public school information over multiple years. Tables can be created for schools, school districts, counties, and states for school years 1986-87 through 2002-2003. Improvements to "Build a Table" include (1) faster export to Excel and among pages of data, (2) ability to create reports with a larger number of records and columns, and (3) increased categorical analysis options. (July 19)

Breaking Down Barriers

Comenius is the pre-school through elementary school part of the European Union's Socrates education program, which was established to promote transnational mobility and innovation. Children in all 25 member-states of the European Union are eligible to enroll. A variety of educational institutions can participate in the program, including schools at local, regional, and national levels; education associations; companies; and trade organizations. Comenius aims to include children of migrant workers, gypsies, and other transient people, as well as children with special educational needs. The program's education themes include language learning; mathematics, science, and technology; arts education; and parental involvement. John Amos Comenius, for whom the program was named, was a Protestant pastor and principal of a parochial school in the 17th century. Forced to live throughout Europe, he developed a philosophy of universal education for all and a vision of political unity and cooperation. (Aug. 4)

The Center for Strategic & International Studies, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, has created, a free website with resources for teaching about civics, economics, geography, and history from a global perspective. The site includes lesson plans, issue briefs, interviews, and news analyses and is aligned to state standards of California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. (Aug. 2)

Charter Schools

The SEED charter school, the only urban, public boarding school in the country to provide a college preparatory curriculum, has received the Innovations in American Government Award from the Ash Institute for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. The Southeast District of Columbia school has 320 students in grades seven through twelve. The 24-hour-a-day program melds academic training with life skills to provide a quality education. (July 27)

Supplemental Educational Services

Dunn Solutions Group, an information technology consulting firm, will develop an online system to manage Chicago Public Schools' supplemental educational services program to streamline registration, attendance tracking, data reporting, and vendor invoicing. The web-based system will include data and reporting to meet federal guidelines, including data for individual tutoring plans and student progress reports. (July 22)


Traditional teacher professional development through workshops and seminars can be impersonal. "ThereNow" holographic technology uses state-of-the-art video conferencing to transmit a "virtual teacher" who appears to be actually in the classroom with the students. The instructor can teach and observe the class while the students observe and learn. This allows for two-way communication, direct feedback, and more personalized, in-depth training. The development of ThereNow was partially funded by a grant from OII. (Aug. 4)


The Transition to Teaching grant to Broward County (FL) (see Innovator, August 2, "Innovations in the News") was awarded in 2004. The grant is a five-year grant (not three, as stated); it was forward funded for the first three years.


Innovations in the News

High School Reform
Parlez-vous français? Parlate italiano? Students in eight North Carolina districts soon will be asking these questions in four new high schools, which will focus on international studies. The schools will open in 2006-2007 and will receive support from the New York-based Asia Society and the Center for International Understanding at the University of North Carolina. The schools will be housed in already existing high schools, follow a small-schools model serving 400 students each, and will offer a college-preparatory curriculum with additional foreign language requirements. Students will be expected to study and build knowledge about one region of the world or a certain global issue. The schools are part of the state's New Schools Project, initiated in 2003 and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. [More-Education Week] (July 27) [free registration]

Eleven new high schools will open in Milwaukee this fall. The schools are opening through an effort to redesign the city's high schools, which calls for some large schools to be broken into smaller units. Seven of the schools are charter schools. Proponents believe that smaller learning communities will create closer connections among families, students, and teachers. The charter schools include a program that helps students who have been bullied in previous schools; a program that focuses on technology, particularly aviation, aerospace, and aeronautics; and a program that offers courses in social justice, leadership, and service through activities in the local community. [More-The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel] (July 31)

Three years ago, the federal Reading First initiative was launched – a program that has grown to include more than 4,500 schools nationwide. Federal funds help states and local school districts eliminate reading deficits by establishing high quality, comprehensive reading instruction based on research. Many states and districts have responded to the need to improve reading instruction by employing literacy coaches, who can assist teachers in creating lessons, instituting "best practices," selecting materials, analyzing student data, and making sense of literacy research. Some districts have hired coaches outside the schools, while others have drawn their coaches from existing faculty, putting these individuals through intensive training. The International Reading Association (IRA) says that the reading coach "is a powerful intervention with great potential," but calls for standardized duties and qualifications for these coaches. IRA plans to release these standards in the fall. [More-Education Week] (July 27) [free registration]

Teacher Quality
According to a report from the National Center for Alternative Certification, an OII grantee, nearly 22 percent of mid-career professionals looking to teach are taking some of their coursework online. At the head of this technological movement is Western Governors University (see, Innovator, March 6, 2003), which was created by the governors of 19 Western states. The university's teachers' college enrollment stands at 2,600 students nationwide. This spring, Kaplan University, which began a strictly Internet-based law school in 1998, began a teacher education program for individuals who will teach in Florida. [More-The New York Times] [free registration]

Rafe Esquith, a former Disney Outstanding Teacher of the Year, has written There Are No Shortcuts, a book "to give hope to young teachers who would like to run against the wind but are afraid of the consequences." A teacher at Hobart Elementary School in Central Los Angeles, he writes about how he has helped his students excel, including having them read the classics, from Shakespeare to Harper Lee. [More-MSNBC Today] (Aug. 4)

Alabama students in the fourth through the twelfth grade can get the homework help they need seven days a week, from 3:00 p.m. through midnight, by logging on to, a free, online tutoring service. Students receive tutoring assistance via the Internet from trained professionals in math, science, social studies, and English. Students in college preparatory classes and individuals trying to earn their GED may also participate. The program began in 2002 in 10 Shelby County libraries. The Alabama Public Library System has just pledged to expand the tutoring service to all 219 public libraries this academic year. [More-The Montgomery Advertiser]


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Last Modified: 08/13/2009