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Students develop resiliency and self-advocacy through AVID

After more than a decade of success with the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, District 191 middle schools have now expanded to an introductory version for sixth-grade students, as well as stronger integration in students’ advisory period.

“AVID helps kids transition because there’s a framework they’re coming into — for organization, for critical reading and thinking and beyond,” said Frannie Becquer, Grade 6-12 Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator. “It sets students up to be successful because they aren’t constantly learning new systems.”

At its core, AVID is a program dedicated to equipping students with strategies to prepare for greater academic rigor as they move through their school years and start thinking about college and career preparedness. The program builds five core skills: Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading strategies (WICOR). 

“[Students] arrive in sixth grade kind of timid, shy or quiet, not feeling like their voice matters. But by eighth grade, they’ve found their voice, they hold their heads higher and are taking leadership roles.”

- Amy Smalley

As a methodology, AVID is taught across all grade levels. However, elective courses are available to students who interview and are accepted into the program. 

“What we do is work with teachers to implement these strategies,” Becquer said. “No matter if you’re in a math or reading or social studies class, some of the same strategies are used to instruct. AVID is the best of the best in terms of the instruction needed to move kids forward academically.”

Finding Community

According to Amy Smalley, Grade 6 Communications Teacher and AVID Coordinator, AVID elective classes are a place where students can see incredible growth over time. That’s especially the case in District 191, where Nicollet Middle School was named a National Demonstration School in March 2020 — an honor bestowed on just three percent of 5,000 AVID schools across the nation.

“The elective class is for students who want more — they go through an interview and application process, and they sign a contract,” Smalley said. “That course is where we develop what we call an ‘AVID Family.’”

How do they do it? A variety of methods including tutoring, small-group time, WICOR strategy development and beyond. Students aren’t given answers; they are required to carefully identify and investigate their “point of confusion,” then present it to the group for feedback.

“Tutors are really there as facilitators — they teach the kids how to build a college-style study group,” Smalley said. “One person presents a problem they had in class, a question they got wrong on a test or just something they were confused about. Then the students in the group ask questions to help the student move toward solving the problem.”

These courses also become a place where students gain confidence and find encouragement and accountability as they hone skills.

“What I see with the AVID kids is that they build resilience,” Smalley said. “They arrive in sixth grade kind of timid, shy or quiet, not feeling like their voice matters. But by eighth grade, they’ve found their voice, they hold their heads higher and are taking leadership roles.”

Smalley noted that a key outcome of AVID is the development of self-advocacy in the classroom.

“The idea of asking a question in front of their peers or even emailing teachers can be paralyzing for students,” Smalley said. “The truth is that so many students have the same questions, and AVID kids learn to ask for what they need instead of suffering in silence.”

“Through AVID, students develop habits that are transferable throughout their learning journey.”

  • Building Community
  • Middle School
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