Closing the achievement gap: What is AVID college preparation?

16 Oct

Moi wrote in Many NOT ready for higher education:

Whether or not students choose college or vocational training at the end of their high school career, our goal as a society should be that children should be “college ready.” David T. Conley writes in the ASCD article, What Makes a Student College Ready?

One program which is helping many students overcome the achievement gap is Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID).

Jay Mathews reports in the Washington Post article, Reforming a nation of bad note-takers:

But I didn’t know what I was doing. No one ever showed me how best to break down a lecture or book. This is common. Most high school and college students write what seems important but are rarely satisfied with the result.

It never occurred to me what I had missed until I encountered a college readiness program called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) that is getting rave reviews from teachers. One of its most radical and effective tactics is teaching students the neglected skill of taking notes.

Visiting an AVID class, I realized how much time and energy I had wasted not learning to do this right. Teachers new to AVID have a similar reaction, because our education system and our education schools have not made note-taking a priority.

Fairfax County social studies teacher Eric Welch first tasted the power of thoughtful summarizing at a 2005 AVID summer training on teaching what are called Cornell notes. “I saw that this fed into so many different aspects of learning,” he said. Seven years later, he is the AVID coordinator for J.E.B. Stuart High School, which has become one of the highest-achieving schools in the country with a majority of students from low-income families.

AVID began in 1980 with an English teacher, Mary Catherine Swanson, who was upset that her suburban San Diego school was doing so little to help low-performing students bused in from poor neighborhoods. Her mix of multi-subject tutoring and instruction in note-taking, time management and critical thinking began with 32 students. AVID now has 425,000 students in 48 states, the District and 16 territories and foreign countries. There are AVID programs in Alexandria and in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Fairfax, Loudoun, Anne Arundel and Charles counties.

The note-taking system taught by AVID was developed by Cornell University education professor Walter Pauk in 1949. The student divides a sheet of note paper into two columns, the one on the right twice as wide as the one on the left. The student adds a horizontal line about two inches from the bottom of the page.

The student take notes in the right column, using a number of symbols and abbreviations. Questions and key words go in the left column. Afterward, the student reviews the notes, revises and adds questions and a brief summary at the bottom of the page.

The process deepens learning and augments review, but it takes practice and perseverance, qualities not common among the middle school and younger high school students in introductory AVID classes. AVID students have just one class a day with their AVID teacher. The rigor of the rest of the day depends on how much their other teachers — not all of them AVID-trained — reinforce AVID values.

The What Works Clearinghouse defines AVID:

According to What Works Clearinghouse, AVID is:

Program Description1

AVID2 is a college-readiness program whose primary goal is to prepare middle and high school students for enrollment in four-year colleges through increased access to and support in advanced courses. The program, which focuses on underserved, middle-achieving students (defined as students earning B, C, and even D grades), places students in college preparatory classes (e.g., honors and Advancement Placement classes) while providing academic support through a daily elective period and ongoing tutorials.

Here is a summary of the research about AVID:


Since 1980, AVID has been closely studied by numerous research teams and individuals. In addition to our own data collection (see the Data & Results page), AVID’s success has been demonstrated by numerous third-party studies. In fact, the quality of our proof is so high, that AVID was one of eleven organizations to receive the highest praise for outstanding rigorous research by Building Engineering and Science Talent in an April 2004 report to Congress. If you know of a research article in the print media or on the web that you would like to share, please contact us. If you have questions or comments about our research, please contact Director of Research & Evaluation, Dr. Dennis Johnston at

The AVID Center has organized the research section of our website so that is useful for clients, the media, and the public. We recommend that you begin your tour by viewing two research documents that summarize key findings:

AVID Research Overview A summary presentation of AVID’s research.
Review of AVID Research A summary and key findings of representative research articles on AVID.

For additional research, view the:

AVID and GEAR UP page
Schoolwide/Districtwide page
AVID’s Electronic Archival Guide

Quick links for this page:

Highlights from AVID Graduate Research:

  • AVID sends one third more students to 4-year colleges than the local and national average.
  • African American AVID students, whether they participate in AVID for one or three years, are enrolling in college at rates which are considerably higher than the local and national average.
  • Students who participate in AVID enroll more often than students who don’t participate, and the longer students enroll in AVID, the better is their college enrollment record.
  • AVID students are staying in college once they enroll; 89% of those who started are in college two years later.
  • In short, the capital that students bring with them into the program does not seem to be as important as the capital that the students accrue while they are in the program.
  • More than twice the percentage of students with two years of middle school AVID took three or more AP classes than those with only one year or no AVID experience in middle school.

Full Studies:

“The Impact of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) on Mexican American Students Enrolled in a Four-year University.” Mendiola, I.D., Watt, K. M., Huerta, J. Journal of Hispanics in Higher Education. (In Press.) The purpose of this study was to investigate the higher educational progress of Mexican American students who participated in AVID

“The Magnificent Eight: AVID Best Practices Study.” Larry F. Guthrie, Grace Pung Guthrie. Center for Research, Evaluation and Training in Education. February 2002. This study investigates how closely eight California AVID Demonstration schools, generally considered to be representative of mature AVID programs, follow the AVID implementation model. The researchers also discuss whether or not all of the eleven AVID essentials are requisite, and propose several additional essentials.

“Constructing School Success: The Consequences of Untracking Low-Achieving Students.” Hugh Mehan, I. Villanueva, L. Hubbard, A. Lintz. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. This book presents an in-depth picture of AVID within the context of tracking and “untracking” students based on perceived academic ability. It shows that AVID succeeds in placing previously low-track students on the college track. Mehan, et al., also published a follow-up piece on AVID, in 1998: “Scaling up an Untracking Program: A Co-Constructed Process.” L. Hubbard and H. Mehan. JESPAR 4(1), 83-100.

Impact at the High School Level

Highlights from AVID High School Studies:

  • The AVID, AVID/GEAR UP, and GEAR UP groups raised their anticipations level by increasing their level of satisfaction from Associate’s to Bachelor’s over the 2-year period.
  • Students who felt nurtured stayed in AVID; personal bonds with the AVID teachers were key to continuing in the program for four years.
  • The family-like atmosphere of AVID was important to students’ morale, self-esteem and determination.
  • While not statistically significant, higher aspirations and college knowledge were found among AVID and GEAR UP students.
  • AVID high schools improved their accountability ratings as measured by the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills and dropout rates, over the 4-year study period.

There are links to more research at

K-12 education must not only prepare students by teaching basic skills, but they must prepare students for training after high school, either college or vocational. There should not only be a solid education foundation established in K-12, but there must be more accurate evaluation of whether individual students are “college ready.”


What the ACT college readiness assessment means                   

Study: What skills are needed for ’21st-century learning?’             

ACT to assess college readiness for 3rd-10th Grades                     

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

Blogs by Dr. Wilda:


Dr. Wilda Reviews ©                   

Dr. Wilda ©                                                                        

One Response to “Closing the achievement gap: What is AVID college preparation?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: