Anoka-Hennepin to graduate first class of AVID students

by Jeff McGonigal

Four years ago when I was the principal of Coon Rapids High School, I was pleased to play a role in creating our first group of students in the school’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program.

The purpose of AVID is to accelerate student learning; increase student success; provide related professional development; and improve instruction and learning for all students. Students are identified for AVID who are in the academic middle, earning “B” or “C” letter grades, who seem lacking support to attend college. Many AVID students will be the first in their families to attend college.

Students apply to the program and commit to improved study skills, collaboration with peers, after school tutoring, more rigorous course selections and other activities designed to make them eligible for a good college. AVID also works with students to set up college visits, fill out college applications and financial aid forms and find scholarships.

The payoff is big. Students who complete high school in AVID not only close their own achievement gap, studies show that AVID students generally outperform college students in general in earning their four-year degree.

Getting AVID started in our schools four years ago was not easy. The modest funding needed for implementation came to us late in the school year. Both students and staff were on a quick timeline to receive applications and confirm commitments by students, who were then in eighth-grade. We were successful just the same and the first high school AVID programs in the Anoka-Hennepin School District began at Coon Rapids and Champlin Park high schools. The program was also started for seventh-grade students at Jackson, Coon Rapids and Northdale middle schools.

During the past four years the high school students, now seniors, have been excelling beyond expectations. In June 40 AVID students from the two high schools will be our first to graduate. Nearly all are already accepted to college with a few still making plans. This is an incredible accomplishment not only for the students but also for the staff who worked closely with the students helping them reach their goals.

The value of our AVID programs would be remarkable if only analyzing the gains realized by each student. However, the sum of these stories does not explain the entire value for our schools. Coon Rapids High School has tracked data on indicators of achievement gaps that exist between our general population as a whole and specific groups of students. During the past years those indicators trend towards closing the gap. I have no doubt AVID is playing a role.

We are so pleased with the gains we have realized with AVID that school administrators along with our school board are looking at future plans. We hope to put the program in all our district high schools. We know there will be more terrific stories if AVID could reach more students. This year we have 40 students bound for college that might not otherwise be on that path. I congratulate them on their hard work in AVID and wish them well as they continue on their path to success.

Jeff McGonigal is the associate superintendent for high schools with the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

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