AVID program takes off in Spring Lake Park

Staff Writer
Since 2013, I have primarily covered the Anoka-Hennepin and Spring Lake Park school districts as well as the city of Spring Lake Park for ABC Newspapers.

Spring Lake Park Schools offered Advancement Via Individual Determination, more commonly known as AVID, programming for the first time this school year.

AVID aims to outfit students with the skills to succeed in rigorous courses in high school and beyond.

The program fits in nicely with the district’s goal to help students obtain 12 college credits by the end of 12th grade.

“In order to do that, we need to support students who have a lot of potential, but maybe would need to have some support in order to be successful in college-bearing credit courses,” said Lisa Switzer, teaching and learning coordinator and AVID district director.

The district initiated school-wide implementation in core subject areas at the middle and high schools and is offering four AVID elective classes in seventh through 10th grades this school year. Next year, an AVID elective will be added in 11th grade, and the following year an AVID elective will be an option for seniors.

Most sixth-grade teachers were trained so that AVID pedagogy can be infused in daily learning in core subject areas.

“It’s more about how you teach than what you teach,” Switzer said.

At AVID’s core is the Writing, Inquiry, Collaboration, Organization and Reading to Learn, or WICOR, model.

“It provides all kinds of supports in those five areas in order to better prepare students for college and career,” Switzer said.

About 100 students have enrolled in AVID electives at Westwood Middle School and Spring Lake Park High School.

AVID seeks to prepare all students for post-secondary success, but especially students traditionally underrepresented in post-secondary education.

Spring Lake Park Schools is looking to mirror its own demographics in AVID courses, and it has attracted a significant number of students who if they go on to college will be first generation college students.

“You’re looking at the kids who are completely capable of being successful, and you’re just looking to give them that extra little push to help them be even more successful,” said Tiffany Fearing, AVID site coordinator at the high school and ninth-grade AVID elective teacher.

Students enrolled in AVID elective courses are simultaneously enrolled in at least one rigorous course.

“The goal of the whole program is to help those students reach a higher rigor level from what they would standardly take,” Switzer said.

That means if a student has taken all general courses in the past, he or she might look to take one Advanced Placement class or College in the Schools offering concurrently with an AVID elective, which provides support.

“When they’re in the class with me, we’re talking about reading, writing, organization, collaboration, inquiry – just those basic soft skills that you need in order to be successful in your next steps beyond the high school walls,” Fearing said.

So far this year, she has worked with ninth-graders on how to use a planner, how to take effective notes, how to collaborate with peers to solve a problem and more.

“The beginning was rough,” Fearing said, but “they’re starting to come around to it and realize how helpful this is going to be in the long run.”

Stephanie Phelps, who works with seventh- and eighth-grade AVID students, has seen a similar transformation in her students.

“It didn’t take long for them to come to see how valuable the class is, and we are seeing the benefits of their learning in the AVID class, as well as their other classes,” Phelps said.

Phelps added that she has seen students’ confidence grow through the program.

“I think this is a great program, and I am very excited that it has come to Spring Lake Park,” she said.

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